Poll: Should the mass-killing of starlings with pesticides be allowed?

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Land owners surprised to discover tens of thousands of dead birds across the high desert are criticising the federal government over a mass of starlings in northern Nevada.

The US Department of Agriculture said a was used to destroy the birds to prevent the spread of disease to dairy cows.

Some area residents, however, say the government should have done more to alert the public and to dispose of the dead birds.

, introduced to the US in 1890, are considered an and have been the target of similar eradication efforts in Nevada and elsewhere for decades.

About 2 million starlings were destroyed in 2013, nearly 50,000 in Nevada, to assist farmers, according to Agriculture Department records.

Starlings have congregated in huge numbers in Nevada this year, possibly because of unusually cold weather in Canada and the northern US. Photograph: Cory Morse/AP

Authorities have used DRC-1339 in recent weeks to kill flocks of birds at the request of farmers in Fallon and Fernley east of Reno, and Yerington, about 90 miles south-east of Reno, an agriculture department spokesman, Travis Kocurek, said.

Starlings transmit livestock diseases and cause crop losses, Kocurek said in an email.

“Bird faeces can contaminate food and water sources, putting cattle at risk for salmonella and E coli infections if ingested,” he wrote.

Hundreds of thousands of starlings usually pass through northern Nevada each winter. But their numbers spiked this year as over a million flocked to the state, possibly due to extreme cold temperatures in Canada and the northern US, Kocurek said.

Gary Smith, of Fallon, said an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 starlings had roosted near his home. “It was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds,” he said.

The eradication programme wiped them out and left dead birds scattered across the area, he said.

Like others, Smith said the government should have given the public notice. He didn’t learn about the effort until he began smelling the dead birds, many of which were eventually removed by a federal employee.

“I have no problem with the dairyman and ranchers having to do this. These are an introduced species, and they don’t want starlings messing their operations more than you and I want mice in our house,” Smith said.

“My concern was that they get the word out” to the public about potential health risks and its offer to pick up dead birds, he said.

Kocurek said the government followed notification procedures by informing local officials, but it will review the process to determine whether changes are needed.

The public can dispose of dead birds in the trash, using disposable gloves or a plastic bag to avoid exposure to disease or parasites, he said.

The Humane Society of the United States, meanwhile, said the Agriculture Department should have chased the birds off, rather than kill them.

DRC-1339 leads to prolonged deaths and can kill non-target birds including golden eagles, said Wendy Keefover, a spokeswoman for the national animal protection group.

“It can take up to three days for a bird to die after ingesting it, and it’s a cruel and horribly inhumane death,” she said.

Kocurek said studies show death will occur within one to three days, but the majority of starlings that eat the bait die within 12 hours. A scavenging animal or raptor should not be harmed by eating a dead , he said.

We invite you to share your opinion whether the mass-killing of starlings with should be allowed? Please vote and leave you comments at the bottom of this page.

Should the mass-killing of starlings with pesticides be allowed?

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This article was first published by The Guardian on 24 Mar 2015.


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They should be driven to extinction on the American continent where they are an invasive species, they destroy the nests of native birds and in many cases kill them.

Michele Jankelow

They have survived for hundreds of years and now because man is encroaching with farming and other forms of agriculture into habitats, thus again the killing starts!

Margot Wiesmayr


Wendy Hall

Defiantly no

Jan Palmer

no it should not be allowed

Charmen Rose Kilderry
Charmen Rose Kilderry

No bloody way STOP killing everything grrrr

Michele Grainger

Definataly not !

Lisa DeHart
Lisa DeHart

Why humans think they are smarter than MOther Nature I will never know. This is sick! HOw will the chemical seffect other spieces as well – oh including humans-

Ricardo Fabian Foti

son estorninos

Tina Quevedo

muchas avez q son

Ricardo Fabian Foti


Iain Gibson

Almost unbelievable. It's appalling how the immediate reaction to a species being successful is to inflict persecution upon them. If these birds were driven south by severe winter weather, most of them would almost certainly be returning to their natal area anyway. The boring and predictable comparison with "a scene from The Birds" says it all – a moronic knee-jerk reaction. I'd like to see the evidence that Starlings significantly spread disease amongst cattle; sounds like a response to ignorant farmers crying wolf. On the contrary, Starlings consume vast numbers of invertebrate agricultural pests. Alfred Hitchcock's got a lot to… Read more »

Karen Lyons Kalmenson
Karen Lyons Kalmenson

NO…heartlsess, coldblooded murder this is!!!!!!

Leigh Lofgren

Does it never end? How totally disgusting, cruel and unnecessary. Seems the cattle industry get to kill of anything they don't like and this must be stopped.

Nicholas Watts

If birds are fed after dark or before light the Starlings will be a lot less of a problem. Mass slaughter like that in the UK is just not on. 95% of people in the world are just pushing wildlife to one side, no wonder it is declining.

Suzanne Kledzik Dunham

MONSANTO is the problem, not the birds!

Adrian Fox

First the bees, now the birds. After practically wiping out bee populations through the misuse of pesticides, now the US is starting on bird life. This is what happens when a Republican Congress and Senate opposed to every measure for wildlife conservation comes to power.

Diane Pizza

No no no no no!