A pesticide used in bird feeders at Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort could have poisoned or killed an unknown number of birds, causing the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner to fine a local pest-control company.
An investigation was launched earlier this year after locals walking their dog past the East Cabrillo Boulevard hotel contacted Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center.
They reported seeing Hydrex Pest Control employees place poison in bird feeders in six areas around the outdoor dining and plaza area, said Brian Trautwein, EDC’s environmental analyst and watershed program coordinator.
After complaints were filed by the EDC and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the agricultural commissioner investigated the matter, and this month handed down a fine to Hydrex for illegally using a bird poison known as Avitrol to control pigeons and sparrows near the hotel’s rotunda.
Up to 21 protected bird species might have been poisoned, according to the report.
The violation alleges Hydrex did not follow directions on the Avitrol labels, which state that “a certified applicator must ensure children, pests and non-target species do not come in contact with the blend during the entire application period.”
Hydrex Pest Control will fight the violation and accompanying fine, the amount of which the company would not disclose, according to Santa Barbara branch manager Joe DiPoalo.
“Fess Parker was having a problem with sparrows getting into their kitchen area and dining area,” DiPoalo said.
He said the bird problem persisted for a number of years, even before bird feeders were added within the past year. After nets and a sticky product put on chandeliers failed to deter birds, Hydrex tried Avitrol — a product he said the company hasn’t used much and won’t use again locally.
“It’s not necessarily supposed to kill the birds,” DiPoalo said. “It’s not a poison unless they eat too much of it. Obviously, it’s hard to monitor that. It wasn’t like we killed a bunch of birds. This was a bad situation that didn’t work out very well.”
He said a Hydrex technician did monitor the pesticide, and noted no fatalities have been reported related to Avitrol use.
When the ag commissioner asked Hydrex to stop using the poison in June, it did, DiPoalo said. Employees removed all bird feeders and cleaned up affected areas.
Fess Parker hotel general manager Matthew La Vine said he wasn’t aware of any poisoning of birds at the hotel, and confirmed the feeders were no longer there.
“If I knew we were poisoning birds, we would’ve stopped this awhile ago,” La Vine said.
The agricultural commissioner found Avitrol in tested birdseed samples, but the report says the number of affected birds is unknown.
“Nobody will ever know,” Trautwein said. “We’re hoping that by highlighting this concern, these sorts of practices will be halted.”