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Pest Control Update

Safety Office


UPDATE: PIGEON NESTING CONTROL– JANUARY 22, 2018

The University of Winnipeg is always seeking to find the right balance between human health and animal welfare in our pest management practices. We continue to investigate how we can control pigeon excrement on campus in the least invasive way possible.

We have formed a small team consisting of a science professor (Dr. Athar Ata, Chair Chemistry) our Sustainability Office and Physical Plant to investigate “best practices” for urban pigeon control.  Our goal is to take a fresh look at this issue and develop an evidence-based approach.

In the interim, we will not be using the pesticide Avitrol on campus.

Dr. Ata, an expert in natural chemistry, will explore the use of green alternatives, for example: application of natural plant extracts which could be used to repel birds from specific locations on campus. Dr. Ata will oversee this undergraduate research project.

UWinnipeg’s Land Use Planning and Property Management Policy includes a commitment “to strive continuously to adopt approaches to land use planning, landscape design and construction, and grounds maintenance which reduce use of toxic pest management substances.”

Our new sustainability strategy includes a commitment to reviewing current operations and maintenance on campus to improve alignment with recognized sustainability best practices.  Our pest management process are part of this review.

Background: 

Non-chemical methods of pest control are used on campus whenever possible; however, despite best efforts, infestations will sometimes occur, and the use of pesticides may be necessary. If infestations are not controlled, human health risks* can become an issue.

Pigeon excrement on campus can be tracked into the school or into people’s homes.  As well, pigeons around campus are sometimes attacked by ravens that leave carcasses on the ground -- attracting other pests. The pigeon excrement also represents a health hazard to the individuals charged with cleaning it up.

Our maintenance team worked with the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project and the Government of Manitoba - Environmental Approvals Branch, Department of Sustainable Development to develop a program that takes into consideration our environment. The program limits where, when, and how we have used Avitrol.

In the past Avitrol was applied from October to March to avoid the nesting season for Peregrine falcons (which is from April to October).

Avitrol has only been used in roosting areas on building rooftops, so land animals are not exposed.

The challenge all urban building managers face is that pigeons are a very successful species. They adjust to new conditions.

In addition, the following measures have been tried on campus as a means of pigeon control:

a)     Spikes in roosting sites – this has some success and is currently being used in Riddell, Ashdown and Manitoba Hall locations.  (These can be difficult to install in some areas which is why not used everywhere).

b)    Owl statues – ineffective as they are stationary and pigeons learn they are not a threat and roost anyhow

c)     Netting in roosting sites – pigeons can get caught in the nets and can die in very troubling manner

*From Health Canada:
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/pest-control-tips/pigeons.html

“The biggest problem pigeons cause is the amount of feces (droppings) they produce. Pigeon droppings may pose a health hazard to the general public.The build-up of pigeon feces on buildings is also acidic and erodes metal and stonework.

Pigeons have been associated with a variety of diseases, including histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis.

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus that grows in pigeon droppings. The fungus can also be found in bat droppings or in the soil, and is carried by the wind. People with weakened immune systems (like cancer patients or people living with HIV/AIDS) are generally more at risk of developing histoplasmosis.

Cryptococcosis It is very unlikely that healthy people will become infected even at high levels of exposure. A major risk factor for infection is a compromised immune system.”