HOUSTON, Texas (CBS Houston) – Animal rights groups are outraged after hundreds of birds were poisoned and killed at Bush Intercontinental Airport this past weekend as part of a “bird abatement project.”
Birds dropped mysteriously from the sky in distress just after daybreak on Saturday and Sunday.
“It was going around and around in circles, you know, like how somebody is drunk or dizzy,” parking lot worker Betrice Miles told KHOU.
Miles was referencing the grackles and pigeons exhibiting “seizure-like behavior” before the birds died.
“It was right there for a long time just flipping and flipping and flipping,” Shara Kelly, Miles’ co-worker at the airport, told KHOU. “And I was like, why are these birds dying like that, I don’t know if it’s something that somebody fed them.”
Sold in the form of corn kernals, a toxicant called Avitrol is what was used to kill the birds.
In cooperation with the Houston Airport System, United Airlines explained that it hired a licensed pest control contractor to put Avitrol down in an effort to “reduce the health and safety risks posed by birds at airport property,” KHOU reported.
A United Airlines’ email that KHOU obtained explicitly details 20 bait tray sites throughout all terminals at the airport and well as a maintenance hanger. In the internal email, the company called the birds “pests.”
“These deaths look anything but humane,” Dr. John Hadidian, Senior Scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, told KHOU. “The birds that are dying after ingesting this compound are suffering and in great distress.”
The Humane Society advocates for non-lethal abatement methods, which can range from noise making devices to laying down pigeon birth-control pellets to control populations.
“The Houston Airport System employs a multi-pronged system in addressing the need to keep the wildlife outside the operational perimeter (of all its airports),” spokesman David Hebert explained in a written statement to KHOU. “This program primarily includes the utilization of loud noises, in an effort to displace the animals, and the installation of traps, but can also employ the use of mitigation chemicals that have been approved for use by the Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Hadidian shared that various local and state governments have banned Avitrol in its entirety including San Francisco and the state of New York.
“I trust my eyes and I look it and I say that is a horrible way for an animal to die,” Hadidian told KHOU.