On Jan. 30, 2018, Northeast Portland looked like a scene from a bad horror movie—dozens of crows fell straight from the sky. Some died on impact, others lay seizing on the ground.
The cause was Avitrol, an avian neurotoxin advertised as a "chemical frightening agent" to deter pest birds. If ingested, the pellets cause lethal seizures.
The chemical has received pushback from environmental groups for years—the Portland City Council banned the use of Avitrol on city-owned land last year. But now that the company's Environmental Protection Agency registration is up for routine review, the Audubon Society of Portland is campaigning for a nationwide ban.
"Avitrol is inhumane," the organization wrote. "Birds poisoned with Avitrol in Portland literally fell from the sky, crashed into the ground and then seizured, convulsed and screamed for extended periods before dying."
Over the weekend, Audubon sent out a call for its supporters to submit comments to the EPA urging the organization to ban Avitrol. Over 200 comments have been submitted.
Last October, National Geographic published a lengthy article on the nationwide pushback against Avitrol, placing Portland at the center of the controversy. The article includes several paragraphs about Portland's success banning the substance from city property, as well as quotes from an interview with Portland Audubon conservation director Bob Sallinger.
"They would lie on their sides and pedal their feet and seizure and then die," Sallinger told the publication, recalling the Avitrol incident of 2018. "Physically and psychologically, it's an awful way to die."
Avitrol did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.