McAlester News-Capital

McAlester News-Capital office

Pigeons present a problem at the Pittsburg County Courthouse — but killing them with a chemical poison banned by several North American cities isn’t the answer.

County commissioners told us a large pigeon population created a public health and safety issue at the Pittsburg County Courthouse with droppings landing on people every day and being left behind for staff to clean.

Commissioners said they received complaints about the mess pigeons created daily — including at the top of the courthouse steps near the main entrance.

“We’ve gotten complaints about poop,” County Commissioner Kevin Smith said.

They wanted to do something about it — and something should be done to eliminate the mess.

So commissioners hired Calera-based wildlife removal business Wildlife X Team of Texoma to remove pigeons, clean the building’s exterior and more.

A work order the News-Capital obtained shows it cost the county $28,491.

Commissioners said they wanted to avoid a mass killing of the pigeons during the process, but people are reporting dead pigeons near and around the courthouse.

The work order Wildlife X Team of Texoma submitted for the project and it states the company planned to use Avitrol — which the Environmental Protection Agency approved for use in 1972, but lists as an avicide.

Avicide is defined as the killing of birds. Avitrol’s website states it “causes behaviors due to an epileptic seizure.”

A work order describes Avitrol as “a chemical frightening agent to remove pest birds” using an acute oral toxicant that acts on the central nervous system and the motor nervous system.

Plus it’s toxic to all invertebrates and can only be used in America by licensed professionals.

New York City, San Francisco, Portland, and Boulder, Colorado banned the use of Avitrol and other avicides. Cities across the U.K. and Europe banned avicides.

Poisoning pigeons isn’t the humane resolution here.

It’s also unsafe for our pets who might become interested in a dead pigeon and ingest the chemical.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Toxicology reviewed 29 Avitrol poisonings of non-target species — showing one dog died, five other animals were treated and recovered, while outcomes for the others were unknown.

So how about some alternatives?

Officials in the 1980s started shooting the pigeons — which the public rightfully protested and the action ceased. We thank the commissioners for at least not reinstituting this method.

But there are safer and more humane ways to rid the courthouse of a pest problem.

Commissioners tried using owl and snake decoys, and reflective items to scare pigeons away.

But there’s more they could’ve tried before approving poison use.

Here’s a list of pigeon deterrents from a quick online search:

• reflective tape put over stoops, window sills, rooftops, etc.

• ultrasonic sound emitters

• 8-feet-long spinning bird deterrent tools for the roof

• twisting, reflective scare rods

• motion-sensor lights

• spiral fence walls

• humane bird netting

Plus, citizens should do what they can to not attract pigeons to the courthouse. Posters can be placed to remind people not to feed pigeons or stray animals; remind people to store trash properly; and feed pets indoors.

Commissioners should tell the company they hired to stop using avitrol or end the project.

Then find more humane solutions.

Taxpayer money can be put toward more useful things than inhumane poisoning of pests.

McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board

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