Since the beginning of the year, Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation executive director Jan Shadick said she has seen an unusually high number of sick pigeons brought to her.
The birds are showing symptoms of being poisoned by what she suspects is a common neurotoxin used by pest management companies called Avitrol, according to Shadick.
“They eat the corn and it gets into their central nervous system,” Shadick explained. “It causes them to have convulsions and seizure-like behaviours.”
“Sometimes they will eat the corn and fly away and it will kick in and then they will literally drop out of the sky,” she added.
Shadick said 30 of the 35 pigeons brought to her this year have shown those symptoms and about half did not survive.
Now she’s calling on the City of Saskatoon to ban the use of Avitrol within city limits – arguing its effects might be more widespread.
“Our concern obviously is that these pigeons are being poisoned,” Shadick said. “They are still out in the environment – dogs, cats, children, as well as birds of prey, can eat these birds and then ingest the same neurotoxin and have a problem.”
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Avitrol is a controlled substance and legal to use within Canada, although it is banned in Red Deer and Halifax.
The city admits pigeons can cause problems, specifically with its energy provider.
Saskatoon Light and Power acting director Brendan Lemke said in a statement, “SL&P does not use poison to kill pigeons in or around its substations.”
“It has, in the past and consistent with best practices, retained the expertise of pest control experts which have used widely accepted chemical repellents for pigeon control, but SL&P has not used those products or services since 2017.”
Shadick presented her case at a city committee meeting Monday acknowledging, while many regard pigeons as a nuisance, they shouldn’t have to suffer.
Moving forward, the city said it will work with pest management contractors to handle the issue in a humane way.