The growing number of pigeons circling overhead in downtown Hannibal has ruffled a few feathers. Consequently, what to do about the community's pigeon population was a topic of discussion during Tuesday night's meeting of the City Council.
While Council members agreed that something needs to be done to curb pigeon proliferation, the exact "something" was not as clear cut.
Before making a final decision, the Council wants to learn what the cost will be to hire a team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services to do the job. The group, which is based in Springfield, Ill., uses an assortment of methods to harass pigeons into leaving. Sometimes they will trap birds. The team also utilizes lethal methods of disposal such as pellet guns or, as a last resort, poison.
If the USDA method is used, its personnel would be responsible for the removal of dead birds.
The alternative would be to strictly rely on poison to reduce the flock. That method was utilized years ago when containers filled with toxic feed was set up on a number of downtown rooftops where pigeons frequently feed. The fast-acting poison - Avitrol - literally had pigeons falling from the sky.
"There were hundreds of flailing birds on Broadway when this program last occurred," wrote City Manager Jeff LaGarce in a memo to the Council. "The 'initial hit' is huge, but it only lasts a day or two."
Councilman James Hark recalls that the last time poison was used to kill pigeons, it happened not long after Sept. 11, 2001. The sight of dying birds prompted a number of phone calls to the Police Department from upset members of the public.
While the past program was effective, it was not without its downsides. While the city would be responsible for removing dead birds from public property, residents would be encouraged to bag dead birds on their property and dispose of them.
"Some residents are unlikely to do so, which could result in prolonged decay and odors," wrote LaGarce.
While the cost of the USDA's service is not yet known, Councilman Mike Dobson reported that Reliable Pest Control has indicated it would charge $3,560 for eight weeks of initial service, plus an additional $720 for 28 days of follow-up maintenance. LaGarce noted that while the USDA will provide a price quote, it will not bid against a private firm.
Dobson stressed that baiting rooftops would only target pigeons, since songbirds do not feed in such areas.