British Columbia

Swallows destroyed in their nesting boxes as vandalism escalates

RCMP are investigating after recent vandalism against nesting swallows in Salmon Arm, B.C., turned deadly.

32 nesting boxes damaged or destroyed in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Late April is crucial for swallows in B.C.'s Shuswap region as they look for somewhere to nest and find a mate. (Submitted by Dianne Wittner)

A B.C. wildlife biologist says she has occasionally seen acts of violence against wildlife in her 30-year career, but says nothing can compare to the recent incidents perpetrated against dozens of nesting swallows.

The vandalism started at the end of April after someone uprooted and smashed several nesting boxes along the waterfront in Salmon Arm, B.C., during the birds' crucial nesting and mating cycle. 

But last Friday, the vandalism took a more violent turn, according to Dianne Wittner, who is also a member of the Shuswap Naturalist Club. 

"[The person has] gone from removing partially built nests to smashing eggs,'' she said, noting that it was discovered Friday morning that a female swallow that was incubating her eggs had been bludgeoned. 

Since the vandalism began, 32 nesting boxes have been damaged or destroyed along with untold numbers of eggs. 

A downed bird box in Salmon Arm, B.C., shows a nest that had already been built. (Submitted by Dianne Wittner)

Wittner says the incidents began after dogs were banned from a nearby hiking trail located beside the nesting area, which is on land managed by the Nature Trust of B.C.  

"This is a level of anger that is beyond the norm," Wittner said. 

Bird boxes first set up 3 years ago

The community got together to build and set up bird boxes along the shores of Shuswap Lake three years ago.

The naturalist club has since maintained the boxes and uses them to collect data on the birds. 

Six species of swallows inhabit Salmon Arm from early April until late September, when they head to the southern U.S. or as far south as Argentina. 

Both tree swallows and violet-green swallows have been affected by the vandalism, but the former have made up the majority of the victims, Wittner said. 

Nearly 90 bird boxes have been built in Salmon Arm, B.C., to help swallow populations flourish. (Submitted by Dianne Wittner)

Members of the club took care of the needed repairs after the first eight boxes were damaged but repairs have since become a full-time job for Wittner.

RCMP confirmed Monday night they are investigating and noted in a statement that Environment Canada has also been contacted. The naturalist club has installed hidden cameras in the area and put the word out to neighbours to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

"There needs to be justice. This [person] needs to get caught," Wittner said.

With files from Courtney Dickson and Radio West

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