Sep. 30—County commissioners said they had to act to address what they called a public health and safety issue at the Pittsburg County Courthouse because of the building's large pigeon population — but some city residents are upset at what they called the sight of dead and dying pigeons in the area.
Commissioners said they wanted to avoid the mass killing of pigeons in trying to rid the building of the unwanted birds, but they acknowledge there have been some pigeon deaths related to a process underway to try and rid the courthouse of its pigeon population.
Commissioners hired a business known as Wildlife X Team of Texoma, out of Calera, Oklahoma, for the project, at a total cost of $28,491. District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith said that was not only for ridding the courthouse of the pigeons, but also involved cleaning the outside of the building and the courthouse roof, along with other measures designed to keep the birds away.
While there have been complaints about some pigeons deaths, commissioners said they were also getting complaints about the mess the pigeons were making, especially near the main courthouse entrance.
Smith said the commissioners had to do so something.
"There was a pigeon problem here," Smith said ."We were paying an individual to clean up," he said, referring to a worker who hosed down the area at the top of the courthouse stairs each morning. Smith said the daily hosing-down was necessary.
"We've gotten complaints about poop," Smith said. "It's hard on your building and it's hard to clean up."
Smith said that due to the heavy pigeon population, there have been dead pigeons found around the courthouse before..
"Here's what they don't understand, we've been picking up dead pigeons for an eternity," Smith said. "Our maintenance guy was picking them up, constantly."
Smith said the commissioners previously tried other techniques in unsuccessful attempts to get the pigeons to leave the building.
"We tried the owls and snakes," Smith said, referring to models of owls and rubber snakes used to try and frighten the pigeons away. Smith said none of those worked.
"In the past, they've shot the things," Smith said, referring to an action in the 1980s by the city of McAlester that brought a public outcry. He said the commissioners did not want to shoot the pigeons, so they hired a licensed company to take care of the pigeon problem.
The company, Wildlife X Team, uses a variety of methods, according to a work order, including the use of Arvitol, a chemical agent which is applied as a chemically-treated grain bait, which can disrupt the pigeon's motor nervous system, according to a work order for the project. Other methods, including the use of reflectors designed to frighten the birds, were used as well.
Smith maintained that much of the courthouse roof and part of the outside of the building has been covered at times with pigeon feces and feathers. Some individuals have been hit with pigeon feces while entering the courthouse, he said.
He noted reflective items, designed to frighten pigeons away, have been placed on the roof and some of the bannisters outside courthouse windows. He said plans are for the reflectors to remain in place to frighten away any of the pigeons trying to return to the courthouse.
Smith said that dead pigeons have been found ever since bunches of them started roosting at the courthouse. He maintained that despite the pigeons which have died during the current process, other techniques would have been even more dangerous for the birds.
"Catch and release was a higher mortality rate," Smith said.
District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman said causing the deaths of some birds was not the intent.
"That wasn't the purpose at all," Selman said, adding "I know some didn't make it."
Selman said commissioners and the public were seeing pigeon feces around the front entrance to the courthouse.
"It was getting pretty nasty; we had to do something," Selman said. He also said commissioners did not want the birds shot.
"We had to go some other route, out out something that was supposed to repel them," he said. He said he can't help it if some dead pigeons have been seen around the courthouse.
"Dead pigeons can be found anywhere in the city," Selman said.
District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers said he did not expect pigeons to be killed during the process.
"I thought they were supposed to put in a liquid, more of a smell suppressor, to keep them off the roof," Rogers said. "I thought it was supposed to be a smell and an odor."
He also said the commissioners have previously received complaints from people stepping in pigeon feces when they were entering the courthouse.
As far as people being upset about the efforts to remove the pigeons, Rogers said he wishes there was an alternative, such as catch and release.
"I apologize they came up dead; that was not my intention," Rogers said.
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