Govt to review chicken culling methods
Government has promised to review its methods of culling feral chickens after complaints about the killing of other bird species.
The Department of Conservation Services have been working to control the Island’s feral chicken population, but this week the SPCA reported the discovery of several dead and poisoned animals in the east end.
The majority of the poisoned animals were birds, however a cat was also found poisoned near Grotto Bay Hotel.
A spokeswoman for the Department said yesterday: “The Department regrets this incident and will review its baiting procedures to minimise the possibility of future events.
To date, the Department has culled more than 7,250 feral chickens, and received 103 culling requests.
“While difficult, the management of feral chickens is absolutely necessary. Feral chickens are causing significant damage to farmers’ crops and threatened habitats.
“They are also a constant source of nuisance to many homeowners and institutions, as well as a potential health risk for carrying viruses such as salmonella.”
She explained that the Department uses sedative bait, not poison, when trapping efforts have proven unsuccessful or found to be 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,” the spokeswoman said. “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.”
She explained that after the birds have been sedated, they are caught and humanely euthanised. Birds that are unintentionally sedated can recover if kept in a warm, well ventilated dark box.
“Every effort is made to remove all bait prior to leaving the site. Furthermore, contact is made with land owners prior to any baiting procedures,” she said.
The spokeswoman said that while considering how to tackle the feral chicken problem, Conservation Services considered developing a chicken farm and using the chicken as a food source, but the concepts were not deemed cost effective.
“Hens only have a relatively short laying life. This would leave a significant portion of feral chickens either unproductive or unsellable,” the spokeswoman said. “Similarly, it is estimated there are a huge number of roosters which would not have any use.
“Another idea was that of selling the feathers on the international market for use in plastics, in paper pulp or textiles. However, the export of feathers would most likely not be commercially viable given the high cost to clean, sort and bag the feathers — as well as high fuel costs to export. The export of eggs would face similar problems.”
SPCA Inspector Glyn Roberts said alpha-chloralose is a poison, not a sedative as claimed by Government.
“Whilst I understand why Conservation Services would want to avoid the use of the word ‘poison’ by telling the general public that they are only sedating the birds, this gives the impression that the SPCA are incorrect in our investigation,” Mr Roberts said. “Alpha-chloralose is a well -known pest control product in Europe where it is used for mouse and pigeon control.
“In small doses and in larger animals and birds there may be a chance of recovery but in high doses and in smaller birds ingestion is fatal. It is marketed as a pest control poison product not an animal sedative.”
Useful websites: www.conservation.bm, www.spca.bm.