OGDEN -- A repellent gel used to ward off pigeons is causing debilitating harm and even a slow, painful death in birds across Northern Utah.
DaLyn Erickson, executive director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Ogden, said she has seen several birds in the last few weeks that are getting stuck on the gel, which is marketed to the public as safe and eco-friendly.
"This stuff is horrendous, and it's not safe at all," she said. "This is a tacky, sticky gel and when the birds stand on it, they simply get stuck to it and can't fly away. They can't get food or water. They can't insulate themselves, so if they aren't rescued by someone, they are left to die a long, slow death."
The product, which comes as a bird glue or gel, can be purchased at home improvement stores or through local pest control companies, Erickson said. Some of the product names include Bird Proof Gel, Bird X, Bird Off Gel and Tangled Foot. The gel is applied to ledges and other areas to discourage pigeons from landing on them. Many of the products can be applied with a caulking gun, making it easy and convenient to use.
"The companies claim that it's simply sticky and uncomfortable for the birds to stand on, so when they come in contact with it, they will just fly away from it," Erickson said. "But this stuff is like tar, and the birds we are seeing are completely coated in it. We can't use anything to remove it, because it's not safe to do so, so we have to keep them here for six to eight months before they're able to fly again on their own."
Erickson said the center has had several birds come in with the gel coating. The latest, a robin, was found in Layton.
"She's doing better, but it will be several months before she's able to fly on her own," she said.
"People are being duped into believing this stuff is humane and safe, when it's actually sheer torture."
Erickson said she hopes the public will steer clear of the gel and will also warn their friends and neighbors to do the same.
"When you're using pesticides and other chemicals, you need to be mindful of what's in them," she said.