The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) admitted that it intentionally poisoned over 200 wild birds in South Dakota because they were relieving themselves in the feed at a nearby feedlot.
A week ago, residents in Yankton, South Dakota found hundreds of starlings lying dead on the ground or frozen in trees. It was initially thought that extremely cold weather could have been at fault for the mass deaths.
Soon after the dead birds were discovered, the Yankton police department received a call from the USDA, attesting that they had poisoned the birds at a feedlot 10 miles away using bait laced with the poison DRC-1339.
Death from DRC-1339 results from uremic poisoning. The damaged kidneys are unable to excrete the body’s waste products and these build up in the bloodstream to a lethal level.
Apparently, some 5,000 of the birds were defecating in the feed meal, posing a threat to the animals and farm workers. The USDA decided killing them would be the best action to take, reports the Huffington Post.
USDA officials said they were surprised that the poisoned birds were able to get to Yankton before dying. In all, officials estimate nearly 2,000 birds ate the poison. However, since the bait has been removed they don’t expect any more birds to die (KTIV).
This USDA report (PDF) also confirms that similar actions were taken to eliminate blackbirds in North Dakota.
Officials claim that the poison and dead birds pose no risk to humans or the environment, but with poison-filled corpses possibly falling into streams or being eaten by scavengers, it’s hard to believe that no other species will be affected.
Image Credit: Flickr - Elsie esq.