City to keep using Avitrol for pigeon control

The City of Red Deer will continue to use a pesticide to stop pigeons from roosting at a downtown municipal building, despite widespread claims it’s inhumane and affects other bird species.

The City of Red Deer will continue to use a pesticide to stop pigeons from roosting at a downtown municipal building, despite widespread claims it’s inhumane and affects other bird species.

Michael Cox, senior communications consultant, said the city doesn’t have its own pest control staff so it hired a Calgary company to determine what should be done with the pigeons.

Abell Pest Control recommended Avitrol, a pesticide, that’s supposed to cause pigeons to display symptoms similar to an epileptic seizure but not kill them. When consumed, it’s expected that the affected birds will emit distress calls and frighten other members of the flock to fly away.

“The recommendation from this company was to use this product as an anti-flocking agent, so at this point we’re going to continue on,” said Cox on Friday. “And it is something that is effective because the number of pigeons at the station has decreased.”

The city contracted Abell Pest Control in April 2011 for a two-year term.

Cox said the contract is for up to $7,800.

The company has placed Avitrol in containers in the beams of the transit terminal.

Abell Pest Control removed nesting within the three-storey parkade and added spikes to deter the pigeons.

Cox said that Avitrol was not used within the parkade itself.

“When the birds nest and there are droppings, there is the potential for health hazards,” said Cox.

Cox said he’s not sure how often Abell Pest Control is coming up to remove any dead birds.

“To our knowledge right now, I don’t believe there have been any,” said Cox. “If any birds are found, the staff will remove it in a safe way — so that no other birds or wild animals can get to the (birds that are deceased).”

Avitrol has been banned through much of Europe and in places like New York City.

Concerns have stemmed from the fact that it can kill other bird species, including threatened birds of prey like peregrine falcons. The Humane Society of the United States, the largest animal protection organization south of the border, describes Avitrol as a poison that readily kills birds, and is dangerous to mammals and other animals. The Humane Society of Canada hasn’t taken an official stance.

Alberta Environment spokesman Trevor Gammell said that Avitrol is a restricted product, both federally and provincially.

“Here in Alberta, it’s only permitted to be used by certified operators under supervision of government,” Gammell said. “It’s not for general use by the public.”

Gammell said there are no plans to ban it because it’s already been restricted for use.

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