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It’s Not a Deterrent, It’s a Medieval Torture Chamber


By Kim Everson, DVM

My first and only exposure to “sticky mouse traps” was years ago, during my first week as a veterinarian. A distraught woman rushed into the clinic and presented me with a palm-sized square plastic tray with a little sparrow stuck to the adhesive, its feathered breast heaving in panic. The sticky trap had been placed in a garage, its intended target invading mice. The hapless bird had wandered onto the insanely sticky trap and been unable to wander off.

With the delicate precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly pried individual feathers and fluff from the glue. Unfortunately, but as intended by the trap’s design, the more the bird struggled in its effort to escape not only the trap but also me, the more of its surface area became firmly attached to the glue. The desperate struggle (also part of the trap’s design) was killing the fragile little bird by exhaustion as surely as the inescapable glue would eventually lead to deadly dehydration and starvation. It eventually became clear that the only good option for this little sparrow was a rapid and humane death by injection of euthanasia solution.

It was a sad end for the sparrow, but I could not help but think even then what a medieval torture chamber the sticky trap must be for the intended victim — the rodent. To become hopelessly entangled in glue, uselessly struggling for escape, finally dying after hours or days from exhaustion and dehydration — what a horrible death even for a rodent pest! 

And now I have learned from Aves Wildlife Alliance that my sparrow-sticky trap experience is not unique to me. In fact, sticky traps are marketed as a humane bird deterrent. Not death trap….deterrent. There are plenty of good reasons to want to deter birds and rodents from the home, but as with anti-coagulant poisons, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we must think beyond the intended target of our pest deterrents and traps to innocent bystanders such as pets and wildlife.

What follows is a blog by Rebekah Weiss of Aves Wildlife Alliance on the dangers of sticky traps for birds. We can’t get away from pest deterrents, but we can choose humane deterrents.

For the Birds…or Maybe Not

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During the spring and summer seasons many of our bird friends are very busy building nests.  Sometimes our porches, light fixtures and outdoor decorations can be as appealing to bird families as the neighboring trees.  If you don’t mind using your back door for a couple of weeks you can enjoy watching the busy pair build their nest, lay eggs and raise their young.  If you would rather they not take up residence under your roof, there are a variety of ways to let the nest builders know your house is not open for birdy renters.
Please avoid Bird Repellent Gels, Pastes or Sticky Strips.  These products are marketed as non-toxic and safe for birds.  Here is an excerpt from one product, “A non-toxic, tacky bird repellent gel.  Can be used on ledges, sills, beams, rafters, signs, statues and hundreds of other outdoor surfaces to prevent pest birds from roosting. The gel does not harm birds – it simply makes surfaces uncomfortable, intimidating and uninviting.”  The reality is these products are not safe and do cause often deadly harm to the unsuspecting birds.  The sticky material coats the bird’s feet and any feathers it comes in contact with.  Small birds often struggle to the point of exhaustion to free themselves while larger birds may lose their ability to fly as a result of the glue on their feathers.  Despite what the label says, these products harm birds and are not safe!
This adult Eastern Screech Owl landed on a surface coated with one of these bird repellent gels.  He could not open his wings or his feet and would have likely starved had he not been found by a concerned home owner.  This little owl will be at the Aves hospital for several weeks while he molts out the sticky feathers and grows in new.
Bird Safe Alternatives:
Wedge a tennis ball or two in between the house and your outdoor light fixtures to keep your lights bird nest free.
Use ½ x ½ inch hardware cloth to close off any openings along the soffits, eves or under open porches of your house.
Use an angled piece of cardboard over ledges.
These items can be safely removed when the pair takes up residence elsewhere and does not cause any damage to your home or to the birds.

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