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Vancouver police tweet photo of pigeon nest of used needles to draw attention to opioid crisis

British Columbia declared a public health emergency over the opioid overdose crisis in 2016.

Vancouver police hope a jarring photo of three pigeon eggs nestled on a bed of used needles in a dirty sink in the city’s Downtown Eastside will draw more attention to the opioid crisis that has claimed hundreds of lives there.

“Pigeons spotted making a nest out of needles in a DTES [single room occupancy room],” Vancouver Police Superintendent Michelle Davey wrote in the caption of her tweet published on Wednesday afternoon. “Sad reality of the #opioidcrisis … #notstaged.”


In an interview with VICE News, Vancouver Police spokesperson Randy Fincham said the photo was taken on Tuesday by the force’s homeless outreach coordinator during a routine inspection of a vacant room in the building. He said it’s not uncommon to see pigeons flying around that part of the city with needles to use as “nesting materials.”

“It was a room that was closed off for quite some time and pigeons has been seen going into the room through the window with needles,” said Fincham.

The point of sharing the photo, he explained, was to “share the prevalence of drug use down there, some of the challenges people who live in the area face, and the problems police face.”

“And to provide insight into a world that very few people need to see and it’s a sad reflection of what’s happening in the community down there.”

Over the long-term, he said the police force has been focusing on harm reduction methods and has been calling for greater treatment options in order to reduce overall drug use and the number of needles that end up on the streets.

On Thursday, some experts questioned the authenticity of the photo, but Fincham says the force stands by it. “There are lots of possibilities leading to the creation of the nest, before the police arrived,” Fincham said. “The pigeons were in the room when the Police arrived, and flew out of the window when officers arrived in the vacant room.”