Every year, for the past three years of more, I have noticed that there are people that come up from the Lower Mainland areas to race their “high flyers” pigeons in Squamish. These birds are not homing pigeons, which means they don’t know where home is and they don’t know how to find food or water. Some local governments, such as City of Delta, have banned this practice due to pigeons being left behind after a race, and District of Squamish should also consider such a ban.
These are domestic birds that rely on their humans for their food source. This form of racing requires the birds to be painted (dyed) so that when they are in flight they are timed and the owners can visually see their colours from the ground while the birds are up high flying.
To retrieve the birds after the race, they have a young bird tied by its leg attached to a pole with a handmade constructed cage on top. That pole is then bobbed up and down and the poor bird tries to take flight but it can’t. The other birds see this and are supposed to come down and land on the cage, and are then caught with a large net.
While some birds come back, others simply take off, only to be found all over Squamish a few days after the racers have left. But by then the poor birds are weak from hunger and dehydrated and even with kind hearted citizens taking them in and trying to feed them, they are generally too far gone and pass away.
In years past I took some to our local SPCA, but was told the staff would look into charging owners with cruelty. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a cruel sport and our town is just not equipped to deal with the birds that are left behind. I have emailed bird sanctuaries and rescue facilities and I was told they were full.
Remember that these are not “fancy” pigeons so the owners don’t care if one or more is lost as they have more birds at home and they can be easily replaced. I hope this cruel practice can be banned and people will have the ability to call Bylaw staff if they see pigeon racing happening in Squamish. It is not fair that these sweet little birds must pay the price for human sport and ignorance.
A long-time Squamish resident, Randi Olson runs the Sea to Sky NANA Facebook page.