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Live birds get shot in target practice

By Kris Mayes
The Phoenix Gazette
FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 1995

On the video, a man clad in bright orange levels his shotgun and yells "Pull!" The camera pans over a dusty field to show a pigeon catapulted into the air.

The shotgun roars and the wounded bird falls to the ground, struggles for a moment in the dirt and dies. The hunters chortle a round of congratulations for the shooter.

The scene of a West Valley gun club using live birds for skeet practice recently was captured on videotape by members of the Urban Wildlife Society, a Valley advocacy group that on Thursday called for an end to the sport. To tape the incident, they posed as shooters to mingle with the crowd.

"These birds' lives are sacrificed for a couple of seconds of pleasure for a bunch of murderous bullies," said Dave Roth, president of the group.

He called for a state law to prevent live-bird target shooting. Arizona, he said, is one of six states that do not outlaw the practice.
James Garcia / Staff photographer
A one-eyed pigeon rescued from shooters illustrates why David Roth and members of the Urban Wildlife society believe the use of live animals for target practice should be outlawed. They staged a protest Thursday. [Click on the image to see an enlarged view. Use your browser's Back <= button to return to this page.]

The group staged a mock funeral for the victims of pigeon shoots.

"They're indiscriminate. They don't care what they launch out of those traps."  Roth said.

 The bird advocates ended the ceremony by liberating a passel of birds purchased from a man who had planned to sell them to skeet shooters.

Ray Kohls, a law enforcement supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said, "We would like to be concerned about them (the pigeons), but we're not.

"Nobody wants to be concerned about them."

That's lamentable, according to [an Urban Wildlife Society member], who raises pigeons as pets.

"They're as lovable as cockatiels, as smart as African parrots and as sophisticated as canaries, she said.

[That member], who attended the recent skeet shoot with Roth, said witnessing the pigeons get blown out of the sky made her white knuckle mad.

"It was just like shooting fish in a barrel," she said. "They all had their guns cocked and ready, and the poor birds were so disoriented."

According to Roth, the birds often are mistreated before they make it to the skeet shootings.

The practice of trapping city birds and then selling them to hunters is common, according to Roth.

Kohls confirmed that such shootings occur, and conceded that such sporting events could appear cruel to some.

"I saw a guy just throw them up in the air like a clay pigeon," Kohls said. "I guess it could probably be inhumane and, of course, then they don't always die"