Toronto birds evicted from police boathouse

The ministry considers barn swallows, also known by their pretty hip Latin name of Hirundo rustica, a “threatened species.”
The ministry considers barn swallows, also known by their pretty hip Latin name of Hirundo rustica, a “threatened species.” Shutterstock.

Barn swallows making their home at the Toronto police force’s marine unit are being handed an eviction notice.

Police have been dealing with “an infestation of barn swallows” for quite some time but they were unable to do anything about it, because the birds are considered a “species at risk” and protected by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The ministry considers barn swallows, also known by their pretty hip Latin name of Hirundo rustica, a “threatened species.”

According to the Endangered Species Act of Ontario people are forbidden from damaging or destroying endangered or threatened species habitats and the penalties for doing so include stiff fines and in some cases even imprisonment. In other words, police couldn’t touch these birds.

However, in cases where it may be deemed necessary for health, safety or other reasons, the ministry will allow the moving of a habitat as long as the person or organization seeks a permit or authorization.

That is just what the Toronto Police Services Board sought in a letter to the city last year. The board indicated that the birds had to be dealt with because of “potential impacts on operational resources and public safety, as well as on the health and safety of members of the Marine Unit.” The force’s marine unit is an emergency response unit and having the birds there can delay response times.

It looks like the city got permission to move the birds and plans to do so in the near future. However, police are going to have to put up with the birds for at least another year, because the city is starting out the three-year project by consulting with experts.

In the meantime, a spokeswoman for the city advised the police to keep the doors to the boathouse closed but police said they tried that and it didn’t work because the birds are small enough to still get in underneath the doors.

Let’s hope the swallows are going to have a hearty house-warming party after all this trouble.

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