Sick pigeons downtown might have been poisoned: Salthaven West A local wildlife organization is concerned about the number of sick pigeons it’s finding in Regina’s downtown.pigeon perched on a bar.

Megan Lawrence, director of rehabilitation for Salthaven West, said her organization is frequently called for reports of pigeons in distress.

She said Salthaven has been dealing with the birds for years now and fears they might have been poisoned.

“On average we’re seeing a poisoned pigeon every two to three weeks,” she said, adding those numbers increase in the summer. “It’s not a very humane death. Their temperature skyrockets; it can be a very painful death.” “By the time we receive them, they’re having violent seizures,” she said. “The only thing we can do to get rid of the poison in their system is basically flush it out.”

Lawrence said she’s heard that some businesses downtown may be using poison in order to detract the birds from congregating on rooftops and other roosting points on buildings. However, she wasn’t able to offer any proof for her claims or pinpoint specific businesses and said she hasn’t spoken to any business owners herself. The Leader-Post contacted some downtown businesses to see how they control the pigeon population. None of the businesses who responded said they use poison or have had an issue with pigeon overpopulation.

Salthaven West director of rehabilitation, Megan Lawrence, stands with a Swainson’s hawk in Regina on April 16, 2015. Lawrence believes pigeons in Regina’s downtown are victims of poisoning.

Kevin Lang, building manager for the Ramada Plaza located on Victoria Avenue, said while he has inquired with pest control companies about using poison to stop pigeons from roosting on the hotel’s roof, he’s never used it. “I’ve been told … it affects the other (types of) birds,” he said. “(If) you put poison out, it can be consumed by anything that lands on our roof, which is not environmentally friendly.”  Instead, the hotel uses cages to keep them out. He said without them, pigeons can get into ventilation equipment and leave feathers in the rooftop coils.

Lawrence said if pigeons ingest poison, they aren’t the only ones who suffer. Animals who eat pigeons could be affected. “If a Peregrine falcon was to eat one of those pigeons that had ingested the poison, the falcon is also going to get the poison and perhaps die as well,” she said. Half of the pigeons they receive, she said, end up dying.

Salthaven’s most recent call to assist a pigeon was Wednesday evening. That one ended up dying. The organization doesn’t usually have pigeons tested to see what specific poison is making them sick, but it’s considering sending that one in for testing.  Lawrence believes the pigeons may be ingesting Avitrol, a bird control product she said is used in cities across Canada.

“It’s very common … to control pigeon populations this way,” she said. “It’s likely (because) it’s cheap and easy.” In an email, the City of Regina said it doesn’t have a pigeon control program and doesn’t monitor pigeon populations. On its website, the makers of Avitrol say the product “causes behaviours similar to an epileptic seizure.”

“Birds eating the treated bait will emit distress signals used by their species when they are frightened or injured,” the website says. “This will frighten the flock and cause it to leave the site.”

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