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County plans to poison problem pigeons

Birds' droppings creating 'severe nuisance' at jail 

By David Schwartz
The Arizona Republic
Thursday, December 13, 1993

Pigeons hanging around the jailhouse have been given a death sentence by Maricopa County officials.

Bothered by having to constantly clean up the pigeons' droppings, the county plans to install poison pigeon perches on the Madison Street Jail to try to wipe out the problem. The perches will be saturated with a poison that enters the birds' bloodstream through their feet.

"We're not known for our bravery over here, and so you know there had to he a darn good reason for us to do this," said Assistant County Manager Jack Shomenta

"They were getting to be a severe, severe nuisance that we had to do something about."

Tell that to the Arizona Humane Society.

"There's got to be more humane ways to do this," said Marge Wright, the society's education director.

"Unfortunately we're never surprised that these types of things still continue to exist in society. It sets a poor example."

Wright said she also is worried that pigeon bodies will he scattered on the sidewalk.

"What if a child walks by and sees the dead   birds?" she asked. "It's Just a bad situation all  around "

Too costly, county officials say.

Shomenta said that the chore of cleaning up after the pigeons became a daily one and that poison is the cost-effective route to go.

In a memo last month to the county Board of Supervisors advising them of the plan, he penciled out the cost at $9,000 initially, plus $1,700 annually in subsequent years, to poison the birds. That is compared with the $28,000 it would cost to screen over louvers that are on the building to prevent the birds from perching there.

The county is on solid legal footing, Shomenta wrote.

And to heck with any had press, he added.

"A concern has been raised ... that if the alternative of poisoning the pigeons becomes widely known, the county could encounter some negative publicity," he wrote.

"However, from a financial perspective, it seems prudent to choose the alternative of poisoning them."

Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox is not buying that argument.

"We just shouldn't be killing pigeons," said Wilcox, the board's only Democrat. "Maybe it's a Democratic way of looking at things. But c'mon."