This pigeon is missing a number of toes on one of its feet due to stringfoot. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Victoria resident catches, cleans pigeon feet to help fight stringfoot

Hair, string tangled around birds’ feet can cut off circulation to toes and whole feet

Pigeons with injured feet or missing toes are a common sight in downtown Victoria, says one resident who’s taken matters into her own hands by catching them and cleaning their feet.

Pippin Griffin carries around a collapsible guinea pig cage, Epsom salts, a sterile first aid kit and hand sanitizer when she makes time — roughly once every three weeks — to help pigeons suffering from stringfoot.

Stringfoot is when birds get string, human hair or wire wrapped around their feet, cutting off circulation. It can cause a toe or entire foot to fall off.

This pigeon lost its entire foot. Pippin Griffin, a Victoria resident, is trying to help the pigeons who have stringfoot. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Griffin first noticed birds with abrasions and open sores on their feet about four years ago when she started feeding them seeds regularly. Realizing she had a first aid kit in her bag, she knew she could help. Since then, Griffin estimates she’s helped more than 100 pigeons and has upped her system of care.

READ ALSO: 350 tonnes of pigeon poop on Saskatoon bridge

Now, depending on how much time she has, Griffin will fill the bottom of the cage with a little bit of water and Epsom salt to let the bird soak. Using food to entice the bird, she’ll catch it and slip a sock with the toes cut off over the bird to stop it from flapping its wings and stressing out. Griffin will then take the bird onto her lap, gently using small scissors to cut away the string, twine or hair and then using tweezers, she’ll remove any of the remaining debris.

“Sometimes I wear gloves for this, but for the most part I would just be sanitizing my hands often and not touching my face,” she says, adding that the gloves can get in the way sometimes and make it hard to grip.

Andrea Wallace from The BCSPCA Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (Wild ARC) says they don’t recommend touching or feeding any wild animals.

READ ALSO: Victoria man angered after Wild ARC euthanizes squirrel

“We want to keep them wild,” she says, adding that if you see a bird with stringfoot to bring it to Wild ARC so they can treat it, although she would not say how the staff would help the animal. “That’s not how we would do it, and I won’t describe how we would do it because we don’t want anyone to do that,” she says.

String, wire or hair can become entangled around birds’ feet, like the one pictured, causing the toes to lose circulation and eventually possibly resulting in the toe or foot falling off. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

For Griffin, it’s a sense of responsibility that keeps her going out.

“I just think it’s kind of sad, so many people think pigeons are gross and hate them,” says Griffin. “This is why they live near — they trust us and see [the city] as home.”

Griffin says the pigeons can even recognize her.

“It’s not like they say ‘hey it’s you’ or anything, but eventually they know what you’re up to after a while,” she says.

Eventually, she’d like to pursue a career in wildlife rehabilitation to put her experience to use.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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Using a sock with the toe cut off, Griffin will catch the bird and gently use small scissors to cut off the string and then tweezers to remove the remaining debris. Depending on how much time she has, Griffin will sometimes let the bird’s soak in water with Epsom salts. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

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