The Voice: Glendale Community College
February 6, 1995. Vol. 10, No. 30

Birds of a feather
found dead together

By James Laughlin

The Voice
During Christmas break, approximately 14 birds and two cats were found dead or dying on Campus. Many of the birds exhibited a loss of flight, dizziness and a slow death.

     It is legal for a professional to poison pigeons, starlings, and sparrows (though no other birds can be exterminated) who may be a nuisance. Poisons such as Starlicide, made by Purina, and a cracked corn feed called Avitrol are among the more common chemicals used in bird control.

     On the afternoon of Jan. 18, this reporter found a crow on the grassy area just south of the High-Tech Center Annex, exhibiting the same symptoms as the pigeons. The crow was transported to Cortez Animal Hospital. After being observed by a veterinarian, a determination was made that the probable cause of the bird's symptoms was a poison.

     Neither Saguaro Ranch Park, "Olive Tree" or "Cimmaron Terrace" apartment complexes, all within a one-block radius of the campus, have reported any similar dead bird discoveries within he last 30 days.

     Over the Christmas holiday break, Jon Olivas, a Campus employee who works in the copy center, saw numerous dead or dying birds. "When we came back to work the Tuesday after Christmas, I saw at least five or six dead birds lying around the campus. Then, for at least a week after that, every day I'd see one or two flopping around." Olivas said that all of the birds were pigeons, and that they all exhibited exactly  the same symptoms, which included convulsions, tremors, excessive salivation, and ultimately, death.

Quoth the pigeon "Nevermore"

     Mary Hagar of campus security said that they had received several comments from people about dead or dying birds at GCC.

     Although mass bird deaths on campus would not appear to be a security issue, Hagar too was curious and a referral was made to the GCC campus maintenance office.

     "We have been involved in a program of trying to reduce the number or pigeons on the campus," said Dr. John Waltrip, president of GCC. "They've tried several different things. The last thing they (maintenance) were using was a licensed pest controller." 

     Tom Bruemmer, director of buildings and grounds, denied any knowledge of possible bird poisoning on campus. However, when asked for an official response on behalf of the campus, he declined. When asked what methods the campus uses to control insects or other unwanted pests, he said that this job "was contracted out to a private company," and again refused to divulge further information. 

     Waltrip said that Bruemmer has tried several different things to control the bird population on campus, but "nothing has been very successful." Finally, he contracted out through a company who does that professionally." 

     Mel Holt, an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement agency, said that "It is in violation of federal law to use any chemical that could pose a threat to wildlife without the expressed written consent of his office.'' After a brief check of his records, he said that his office had no record of having received an application to use such measures.

     Waltrip isn't aware of any application to use poison to control the bird population. 

     "I never heard of anything like that so obviously we wouldn't go ask for it if we didn't know about it," President Waltrip said. "When you use a licensed contractor you would assume they'd be aware of any permits that would have to be attained." 

     David Roth, a local activist who led the fight to stop Maricopa County from using poison to control pigeons at the Madison Street Jail in Phoenix, said that "Despite laws designed to control it's use, they are largely ineffective. In the past, the city of Glendale used Avitrol to control pigeons,and denied doing it. "When proof was found to the contrary, the city parks and recreation department claimed that this was done without the permission of city management, and attributed the poisoning to an individual taking matters into their own hands," Roth said. 

     Roth led a successful campaign to prevent the county from using lethal means to deter pigeons from roosting on top of the country jail in downtown Phoenix. His level of expertise earned Roth the recognition by various state animal control agencies as a valuable consultant in methods of dealing with unwanted birds. Additionally, he has founded a non-profit organization called "The Urban Wildlife Society." They are confronting the issue of bird control in cities. 

     Even though it is a legal practice to control birds this way, Roth has secured a promise from Maricopa County officials that they would not utilize any form of lethal control of birds at any county facility without first consulting his organization. "The Urban Wildlife Society" under the direction of David Roth has devoted much time in advising Maricopa County on methods of controlling birds in environmentally safe ways. 

     In the meantime, any person on campus should avoid leaving food or other garbage in any place other than a proper trash receptacle. Also, you should obey all campus regulations concerning pets, and never allow your dog or cat to roam freely. If you discover a bird that you believe may have been poisoned, you can contact "The Urban Wildlife Society" in Phoenix at 265-4320.

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