'We can't figure out why &#39a;nyone; would want to do this'

Who's poisoning Iqaluit's ravens?


Dead ravens are turning up in Iqaluit for a second time this year, slaughtered by a deadly poison called Avitrol.

Wildlife officers first found ravens killed by Avitrol this past March, in the neighbourhood between Happy Valley and the Apex Road.

"We can't figure out why anyone would want to do this," said Curtis Didham, a wildlife officer with the Department of the Environment.

Didham said that in recent weeks, wildlife officers found five dead ravens, all showing the same signs of Avitrol poisoning that they found in the birds killed last March.

To confirm this theory, they've sent the raven carcasses to a lab for testing. The same tests done last March revealed high levels of Avitrol in the ravens' bodies.

Manufactured by Avitrol Corp. of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Avitrol is a highly toxic pesticide sold to people who want to get rid of unwanted bird species such as starlings, sparrows, crows and feral pigeons.

To attract birds, it's usually baited with grain in various combinations. It works by attacking the nervous systems of birds, causing them to issue warning calls to other members of the flock, who then flee the area.

Because of this, Avitrol Corp. claims that when it's used properly, Avitrol will frighten but not kill flocks of birds.

But Didham said Iqaluit's mystery raven-hater is using it in doses strong enough to kill – a big potential danger to other wildlife, pet animals and even people.

In humans and other mammals, lethal doses of Avitrol usually produce the following symptoms: hyperexcitability, salivation, muscle incoordination, convulsions, and cardiac or respiratory failure leading to death within four hours.

A report from the University of Virginia's poison control centre reveals that two unlucky factory workers in Waynesboro, Virginia each downed large doses of Avitrol on Nov. 17, 1978, after somebody convinced them it was a well-known aphrodisiac called Spanish fly.

The effect was somewhat less than amorous. One man suffered a seizure, while the other stopped breathing. Both complained of nausea, vomiting, weakness, dizziness and intense sweating.

The killing of ravens is an offence under the Wildlife Act. The Iqaluit Wildlife Office urges residents to phone them at 979-7800 if they see:

  • anyone scattering grain or corn onto the ground;
  • anyone feeding ravens with grain or corn;
  • any ravens that are dead, disabled or distressed.
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