The pigeon was discovered perched on the wall of the Pacific Institution in Abbotsford, British Columbia, with a "fairly substantial" amount of crystal meth in its backpack.
Pigeons are everywhere. Pigeons with tiny backpacks, however, are unusual. Recently, correctional officers at the Pacific Institution in Abbotsford, British Columbia were shocked when they spotted a backpack-carrying pigeon — and even more stunned when they discovered that it was carrying crystal meth.
“This is kind of a curveball,” John Randle, the Pacific regional president of the Union for Canadian Correctional Officers, told CBC. To the New York Post, Randle added: “My initial reaction was shock because of all the advancements in technology and the number of drones [smuggling drugs] we’ve seen. The fact that it’s tied to a pigeon is abnormal.”
According to Global News, correctional officers noticed the bird on Dec. 29, 2022 near one of the yards that inmates use for recreation and fresh air. At first glance, it looked like a normal pigeon. Upon second glance, however, the officers noticed it seemed to be carrying something on its back.
“It was spotted by correctional officers… when the officers were doing their standard patrols around and throughout the unit and institution, that’s when they initially spotted the bird with the package on it,” Randle told Global News.
To CBC, Randle added: “From my understanding, [the package] was tied to it in a similar fashion as… a little backpack.”
After a “lengthy period of time” and using some “creative work,” the officers were able to trap the bird. “They had to corner it,” Randle told CBC. “You can imagine how that would look, trying to catch a pigeon.”
More shocking than the backpack-wearing pigeon, however, was what its bag contained. Once the officers caught the bird and opened its satchel, they found 30 grams of crystal meth.
“It’s definitely scary with the fact that it was crystal meth that was found on the bird because that causes a whole lot of problems,” Randle told CBC, remarking that 30 grams was a “fairly substantial” amount of the drug.
Noting that he’d never seen such a thing in his 13-year career, Randle explained that correctional institutions have been focusing lately on preventing drug smuggling by drones. The discovery of the crystal-meth-carrying pigeon, however, suggests that they need to widen their focus.
“We’ve been focusing so much on drone interdiction… now we have to look at, I guess, pigeons again,” Randle told CBC. To the New York Post, he added: “[Drug smugglers] have gone backward in technology. Maybe that’s because of all the work we have done with drone interdiction that they are trying to find new ways to get contraband in without being detected.”
CBC reported that drug smugglers could simply toss pigeons over prison walls — or they could meticulously train the birds to think of the prisons as “home.” Then, someone from outside the facility could tie drugs to them and send them back to fly the contraband inside.
In any case, Randle suggests that the drug smugglers have gone “old school.” And, indeed, there is a long history of using pigeons as messengers.
Homing pigeons were used by both ancient Romans and soldiers fighting in World War I and World War II. The Pigeon Control Resource Center reports that they’re capable of flying as far as 700 miles a day, making these ubiquitous birds a valuable asset during wartime.
Pigeons have even been used by drug smugglers before. VICE reports that a pigeon was caught smuggling marijuana and cocaine into a maximum security prison in Costa Rica in 2015, and another pigeon was intercepted in 2017 while carrying ketamine or ecstasy pills from Iraq into Kuwait.
Drug smugglers even used pigeons as far back as 1930, when a pigeon breeder in Texas told the police that a pigeon he’d sold to a Mexican buyer had flown home with cocaine tied to its legs.
Looking forward, Randle said that correctional officers will keep an eye out for pigeons — but their focus will remain on drug smuggling by drone.
“Especially with drones and throw-overs, the drug problem is growing on a daily basis,” he told Global News. “This pigeon thing adds a new element to that for sure and we’ll be on the lookout for it but definitely drones have been the big thing for us.”
After reading about the pigeon caught in Canada carrying crystal meth, discover the surprising story of Cher Ami, the pigeon who saved 200 men during World War I. Or, see why crystal meth has become a surprisingly popular gift among North Koreans.