|We should give
olive branch to
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We should give olive
branch to pigeons
Behind every pigeon is a
Holly is the last survivor
of an explosion set off by a Hollywood film crew in 1997 at an abandoned
racetrack in the West Valley. Eyes melted shut. Beak and feet mangled.
Feathers seared to skeletal sticks.
Winglet, rescued after being
found mutilated and cowering under a school bus, has half a wing.
Lucky was found with a blow
dart lodged in his head, in one side and out the other.
These are but a few of the
feathered menagerie of David Roth, known as “Pigeon Dave” and founder of
the Urban Wildlife Society in Phoenix.
His pigeons are rehab patients
and house pets. In back is his aviary. On his tile roof, a devoted brood
of wild pigeons emits lulling, deep-throated coos.
Critics aside, Roth says,
studies show pigeons are as smart as whales and as affectionate as dogs.
Every few years when pigeons
are targeted for killing somewhere in the Valley, Roth gears up for another
In 1993, Maricopa County
officials planned to poison nesting pigeons wholesale at Madison Street
Jail in Phoenix. Roth and others persuaded them to put up net barriers
In 1995, 14 birds and two
cats were found dead or dying on a community college campus after a licensed
pest controller spread poison.
Wildlife groups clashed with
an exterminating company that used a gluelike substance at a strip mall
to repel pigeons, but ended up suffocating them.
And Roth videotaped a local
gun club using caged pigeons as live skeet. A contraption catapulted about
700 live pigeons one by one into the air, so sportsmen wielding 12-gauge
shotguns a few feet away could blow them to bits.
Now a Gilbert condo complex
is up in arms about pigeon pooh. About pecking and cooing. They want to
poison the offending birds. [Click
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Are they really disease-ridden
Mira Leslie, public health
veterinarian for the state Department of Health Services, said Arizona
“has never had a case of a pigeon-to-human documented disease. But
if you don’t wash your hands after you’ve handled pigeons and their feces
you certainly can get things. Just like any time you handle feces from
animal, you can have a risk of getting bacteria on your hands.”
Rather than killing pigeons,
a toxic and temporary fix, Roth suggests nonlethal measures such as net
barriers or trimming palm trees at 45 degrees to discourage nesting. Poison
only contaminates the ecosystem for everyone — insects, pigeons, pets,
children and up the food chain.
It's a head-scratcher
why pigeons don’t get better press. We relegate them to Christmas cards
— when we call them “doves” — but otherwise treat them like lepers.
Forgetting their place
in history — from delivering an olive branch to Noah, to a single carrier
pigeon saving a thousand Allied lives in World War II by delivering a vital
message in the nick of time.
— Tamara Dietrich is staff
columnist and winner of the 2000 Arizona Press Club Don Schellie award
for feature columns. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (480) 898-6534.