Glenwood ponders poisoning pigeons |

Glenwood ponders poisoning pigeons

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
An adult pigeon cares for one of its three young under the Grand Avenue Bridge Monday. The birds are inside nylon netting that was installed in 2006 to deter pigeons from roosting and nesting over Seventh Street in Glenwood Springs. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Cheryl Guay hopes the city can do something about pigeons in downtown Glenwood Springs before they mar summer tourism.

“Hopefully something will be done soon before all our tourists come for the summer,” she said.

Guay, owner of the downtown Jewels and Gems store, said pigeons try to nest right above the shop’s windows and door. She thinks they’re bad for downtown businesses. The problem seemed to her to get much worse last winter.

The city installed netting on the bottom of the Grand Avenue bridge more than a year ago in hopes of preventing pigeons from roosting there above Seventh Street.

City Manager Jeff Hecksel said it helped a lot when it first went up. But trucks started hitting it and ripping it open. There have also been reports of people climbing up and letting the pigeons back in above the netting.

A pest control company recently asked the city about poisoning pigeons. In an April 21 letter, the company wrote that pest management companies are receiving “many calls about the great number of pigeons in town.”

The letter says pigeon droppings can carry a number of diseases and can damage structures because they’re acidic.

“We are searching for ways to provide our clients the protection they need that still has little environmental impact,” the letter states.

The company said trapping and “exclusion products” have had limited results, and Front Range pest control companies recommended using Avitrol. It’s a poison that is fatal to a portion of the flock and frightens pigeons from using a specific location.

“We are concerned about the community in which we work and live and do not want to ‘ruffle any feathers,’ so to speak,” the letter says. “But, we do want to help other members of our community with a problem that needs to be looked into.”

The company said it believes the use of poison comes down to interpretation of a city ordinance. The letter’s author didn’t return a phone message Monday.

“I feel a large percentage of the residents and business owners would like to see pigeon control measures put in place, that are effective, before the problem worsens,” the letter says.

The active ingredient in Avitrol bait is 4-Aminopyridine. Birds that eat the bait emit distress, alarm cries and visual displays that frighten the flock into leaving for another site, according to the Avitrol Corp.

“Avitrol appears to be humane based on scientific evidence,” the company’s website says. “However, clinical signs of convulsive seizures will affect public acceptance of this chemical repellent.”

Avitrol Corp. says a University of Ottawa study determined that birds eating Avitrol don’t experience pain, but some mortality is unavoidable. The corporation says Avitrol can pose a threat to other species if it’s not properly used, and it is toxic to all vertebrate species.

Hecksel responded to the proposition of using Avitrol by saying he consulted the city attorney and it seems clear that poisoning pigeons violates a cruelty to animals ordinance. A copy of the ordinance says it’s illegal to poison animals except if an animal owner decides to euthanize animals for the purpose of health and safety.

Hecksel said the exception doesn’t apply to the pigeons because they don’t have an owner and they’re not an immediate threat to a public health problem.

On Thursday, city councilors said it doesn’t help that a few people are feeding pigeons around town. Hecksel said the city staff did some research and determined that another “fairly successful” method for controlling pigeons is to build a place for the pigeons to live and periodically reach in and sterilize the eggs. The eggs don’t hatch, and the pigeons don’t know the difference.

The city doesn’t have immediate plans for more pigeon mitigation efforts.