Second pigeon with homemade contraband backpack found in BC prison

Pigeons are pictured in Surrey, BC on January 5, 2023.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - photo credit)

Pigeons are pictured in Surrey, BC on January 5, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC – photo credit)

A second pigeon carrying a tiny makeshift backpack believed to be used for drug smuggling was found at a correctional facility in Abbotsford, BC, almost two months to the day after a bird was found with a pack of crystal meth in the prison next door .

Officials discovered the newest bird with its backpack at the Matsqui Institution during a routine search on the morning of February 27, the union said. The backpack, which may have been made out of cut-up jeans, was empty – leading guards to believe the bird might still have been in training.

“It was actually at the facility that they found the pigeon, which in turn was carrying a small cloth-like backpack,” said John Randle, president of the Union for Canadian Correctional Officers for the Pacific region.

“Where did it come from and what was going on? That’s the big discussion right now.”

Carrier pigeons have been used to smuggle drugs into prisons for decades, valued for their ability to fly long distances to return to their “home” lofts. Experts say it would be possible to teach a bird to see a prison as its home ground so that it would fly into the institution with cargo attached outside.

It’s an old-school smuggling tactic that’s hard to investigate.

“We’ve looked at drones… We’ve looked at throws. We’ve looked at smuggling, and now we have to deal with the wildlife aspect, which is completely new to us,” Randle said.

“Since a pigeon is a wild animal, it is a joker.”

Backpack possibly made from old jeans

Randle said it’s possible the bird entered the medium-security prison through an open window or through one of the recreation yards where inmates can spend time outside. It’s also possible that the bird’s backpack was already emptied before guards found it, but the union believes the pigeon-in-training theory is more likely.

“It looks like it’s trying to train as a food source in this area right now,” Randle said.

Randle said inmates allegedly cut up old blue jeans or bed sheets to make the backpacks.

“When you spend that much time indoors, you get very creative with what you can do.”

In December, a pigeon was found in the yard of the Pacific Institution carrying a backpack containing crystal meth. Both pigeons were later released.

CBC News has reached out to Corrections Canada for comment on the latest incident.

In an email, Abbotsford Police confirmed they were investigating an incident “involving a pigeon” but would give no further details.

Randle said “it wouldn’t make sense” for staff to keep the bird because they’re trained to fly “home” to prison, not to their supplier outside. Because of this, the incidents are among the most difficult to investigate, compared to drones — or throws, where a person throws a package over the prison fence.

“This is just another layer of the onion, I think we need to find a way to pull back and find out what’s going on.

“The Matsqui Institution, the local union there and their local management … they are working on a plan to increase search and increase monitoring because this is clearly a new problem.”

Richard Lam / The Canadian Press

Richard Lam / The Canadian Press


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