Agawam mayor upset over poisoning of birds

Says town didn't get adequate notice that pesticides were going to be used

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), male

AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen says he is upset that a biologist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture poisoned a group of birds without notifying the town in advance.

The mayor wrote a letter to Congressman Richard Neal, and U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren saying that USDA staff wildlife biologist Timothy Cozine administered a pesticide on a group of European starlings in Agawam. He says that the only notification made to local officials appears to be an email to Agawam’s health agent (who happened to be out-of-town at the time), which was sent the day that the pesticide was administered.

“Concerned citizens from the town of Agawam were seeking more information, and we had nothing to provide. Even with the email, the information is very sparse with no details of how the pesticide was spread, in what quantity, and what impact to other species in the region,” Cohen wrote.

The mayor says that the town ought to have received a notice at least 30 days before pesticides were to be administered. He also says that officials should have received an explanation about the pesticides themselves, and potential consequences to the environment, as well as why the poisoning was deemed necessary.

“On behalf of all the citizens of Agawam, please accept this letter as the objection of pesticides being applied without proper education and notice or input to communities directly impacted and a request that your office compels the USDA to be more open and engaged with the Town of Agawam and others,” Cohen wrote.

The USDA lists the European starling as an invasive species which competes with native birds for food, and destroys crops. As its name suggests, the bird is native to Europe. It arrived in North America at about 1890, as part of an effort to introduce to the United States all species of birds that were mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.