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Pigeons create hazardous hospital incident

An attempt to control the pigeon population using a pesticide at a New York hospital caused widespread extermination of the birds, leading to the shutdown of the facility’s emergency wing.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An attempt to control pigeons at a hospital escalated into a hazardous material incident as sick and dying birds falling from the sky forced a temporary shutdown of the emergency room.

“Birds were coming down like dive bombers,” said Schenectady Fire Chief Robert Farstad.

There were no reports of illness or injury from the incident Thursday evening at Ellis Hospital, but several people went through decontamination after emergency crews discovered the poisoned birds.

The hospital had brought in an exterminator to use the pesticide Avitrol to reduce the pigeon population on the roof. The chemical is designed to poison a few birds, whose distress calls would then drive off other members of a flock.

Instead, more than two dozen pigeons were affected and emergency workers spent hours searching the hospital grounds, putting dead birds in red hazardous waste bags.

Schenectady County health officials said they will investigate whether the pesticide was improperly mixed or applied.