The founder of a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Seaforth, N.S., says there's been an influx of calls about poisoned pigeons in recent days, and in most cases they haven't been able to save the birds.
"It really is a difficult death for these birds and I would like to think there's a lot better ways to deal with the issue," Hope Swinimer with Hope for Wildlife told CBC's Information Morning on Thursday.
She's been treating poisoned pigeons since she started the wildlife refuge 25 years ago. She said the number of calls seems to come in waves.
"You'll see two or three days in a row where we have hundreds of calls and it's usually always pertaining to poisoned pigeons," she said.
Recently, there have been reports on social media of pigeons being found in north-end Halifax that are dead or close to death.
For the pigeons nearing death, the symptoms always look the same: the bird's head is tilted upward and the animal is convulsing.
"If we can get to them quick enough, we can often hook them up to an IV and flush their systems and give them supportive care and sometimes work them through this," Swinimer said. "But we need to get them pretty quick before the poison has taken hold."
Sometimes, people have found what appears to be corn near the pigeons.
Avitrol, a pest control poison often used on pigeons, is designed to look like corn kernels so the birds eat it.
Avitrol is described by its manufacturer as a flock deterrent, and it affects the birds' central nervous system and causes convulsions that can last several hours. The prolonged, uncontrolled flapping is meant to scare other birds away.
The substance is also banned in a number of other cities.
While the poison is banned on municipal property, it's still possible for people to use the substance on private land.
A spokesperson for the Environment Department said that neither it nor Lands and Forestry have received complaints about pigeons being poisoned.
The Environment Department certifies pest control companies and said in an email that "we find that they typically use physical deterrents, such as spikes, to deal with pigeons, rather than poisons."
The poison isn't only deadly to pigeons. It can infect other animals as well, Swinimer said.
"It lives on and on," she said. "If a bird of prey was to eat that pigeon they would also be affected, so killing to control pigeons fails to solve the root of the problem and it just leads to an endless cycle of killing in my opinion."
Swinimer said there are many other humane ways to keep problem pigeons away from property, and she encourages people not to feed the birds.
Nova Scotia Environment said people can also call 1-800-565-2224 to report a poisoned bird or contact their nearest Lands and Forestry office.
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