Distressing, sticky end for trapped swallows

GLUE TRAP: Kylie Yates, senior nurse at the Stoke Veterinary Centre, with the 49 dead swallows the vet put down after they were found glued together with the product Hot Foot.
GLUE TRAP: Kylie Yates, senior nurse at the Stoke Veterinary Centre, with the 49 dead swallows the vet put down after they were found glued together with the product Hot Foot.

Nearly 50 distressed birds have been put down after being trapped in a sticky repellent on a Nelson building.

A Nelson SPCA inspector and the vet who had to euthanase the swallows are horrified at their injuries.

Many of the birds had their wings stuck to their bodies, their bodies stuck to one another, and leg injuries, said Nelson SPCA senior inspector Craig Crowley.

The birds were found at the back entrance to the St Vincent St building owned by Wakatu Incorporation and tenanted by Harvey Norman and Resene Paints.

Swallows roosting on pipes had been causing a problem, and a bird repellent product, Hot Foot, had been used, Crowley said.

"I understand the reason for doing it, but we ended up with a huge number of birds taken to the vet to be put down."

Stoke Vet Clinic veterinarian Callum Irvine said the woman who called the clinic after-hours was distressed about the birds she had found.

"She brought in 45 birds quite heavily covered in this sticky substance. They couldn't move, with injuries to their legs and wings, and the decision was made to euthanase them."

Crowley brought in another four birds the next morning.

"It's quite distressing, not just to the member of the public who found them, but for me as a vet. I have never seen anything as horrible in pest control. It is unacceptable in any circumstances."

It was concerning, despite people considering swallows to be pests, he said.

"It's still unnecessary to cause that suffering and harm. Animal control should be humane."

Irvine said he understood the product was effective.

"I'm not suggesting the product is not OK; it's more about the method of application."

Wakatu Incorporation chief executive Keith Palmer said it had asked its maintenance contractor to chase the birds away and the contractor had bought the product.

After meeting with the SPCA inspector this morning, Palmer said the issue was with the product, not the contractor, who he declined to name.

"We will not use the product again."

Instructions for Hot Foot repellent specify where to cut the nozzle of the cartridge to apply the appropriate bead of gel to repel birds according to their size.

Crowley said the product, which is readily available, should be used in a narrow bead. A bird making contact with it and feeling it was getting stuck would warn other birds.

"It's a product that is out there and if it is not used correctly, these sorts of things happen with a degree of animal cruelty or animal welfare issues.

"In this case, if it was used deliberately in a way to entrap the animal there could be consequences. If it was used incorrectly with no intent, a stern letter would suffice."

A similar case in Waikato two years ago led to more than 70 swallows being put down.

The Nelson Mail