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Conservation Services: We do not poison feral chickens

Government’s feral chicken cull programme is having unintended consequences, the SPCA has warned, following the discovery of “significant” numbers of dead wild birds.

In a press release issued yesterday the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said they were aware of three incidents since November last year in which other animals — mainly birds, but also a cat — had ingested poison intended for the chickens.

A cat was poisoned in the first incident near the Grotto Bay Hotel, the SPCA says. The organisation also found that workers had disposed of a number of dead birds in the trash compactor.

“The second incident the following day concerned mainly sparrows and doves which were found littering the grass near the Blue Hole car park. An unconscious chicken was also recovered,” the SPCA said.

“Today members of the public out walking in Lagoon Park found a similar sight when they came across the starlings, a kiskadee and some ground doves that had eaten poisoned bait. A starling and the doves were still alive when found by the public.

SPCA Inspector Glyn Roberts called for measures to control the feral chicken population in a “humane and responsible manner” and said the Conservation Services did not appear to be following their own guidelines.

He added that members of the public should contact the SPCA (7371108) if they come across any animals that look as if they have been poisoned.

And Mr Roberts reminded the public that only Conservation Services can lay poisoned bait for feral chickens.

Conservation Services denied using poison to control the birds in a press release issued this afternoon.

“The Department strives to manage this problem as humanely as possible by targeting only feral chickens and when using a sedative bait (NOT POISON as stated in the SPCA press release), as a last recourse, hand-feeding under supervision,” said a spokeswoman. “The sedative is used when trapping has proven unsuccessful or not feasible.

“The sedative (alpha-chloralose) is fast-acting, painless and any bird who consumes it has a high percentage change of recovery, dependent on the amount eaten. It is also bird-specific and not very effective on mammals. Bread is purposefully chosen as the bait as it is unlikely to be consumed by threatened species such as Blue Birds.

“The culling process is a two-step process. The sedative bait stupefies the birds so they may be easily caught and then they are euthanised using accepted humane methods. If a bird is unintentionally sedated it has a good chance of a full recovery if kept warm and in a well-ventilated dark box.”

Every effort is made to remove all bait prior to leaving the site, the spokeswoman added.

“To date the Department has culled over 7,250 feral chickens with a minimum impact on non-targeted bird species and mammals. The Department regrets this incident and will review its baiting procedures to minimise the possibility of future events.”

Poisoned: A dead sparrow found by the SPCA

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Published February 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm (Updated February 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm)

Conservation Services: We do not poison feral chickens

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