Council ponders pigeon problems

By M. Robert Berg

The pesky pigeons in downtown DeKalb are posing a problem for shoppers and property owners alike, and people are pressing the city council for a solution.

Last night the DeKalb City Council discussed a consideration on what to do about pigeons nesting and pooping in downtown DeKalb. “Quite a few merchants, shoppers and city employees have noticed a problem,” City Manager Bill Nicklas said. “(These problems include) droppings on sidewalks and pedestrians and nesting in some overhead areas.”

The consideration came before the council because a current method the city is employing is not working well. “We net the birds, cage them, take them to a site where a larger cage exists and they are kept there until they lose their homing instinct and can’t find their way back,” Nicklas said.

The city contracted a local wildlife preservationist to remove the pigeons to the remote site where the cage is located, Nicklas said. So far this has cost the city $400, plus $5 per pigeon.

However, this system appears to be ineffective, Nicklas said. “We’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks, and there hasn’t been an appreciable impact, but we do have some very happy pigeons in another location.”

Under municipal code, it is illegal to kill the pigeons. “Only a few things are legal to solve this problem,” Nicklas said. “We cannot shoot, shock or poison the pigeons legally.”

The downtown area where the problem is most prevalent is in the 3rd Ward, between First Street and Seventh Street.

Although a solution was not reached at the meeting, the council will pursue the issue further. “This will probably go to a workshop meeting or something,” DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow said.

Third Ward Ald. Gary Wiggins was concerned with the cost to the city. “When we have a permanent pigeon program, will it be a cost-sharing program with property owners?”

Nicklas said that was one option, but he didn’t have an answer to the dilemma. “I’m at a loss on how to direct the staff to proceed on this,” he said. “We’re looking for direction from the council.”

Some socially acceptable, humane methods have been tried in other cities, but they are expensive and basically ineffective. “Some cities use a sharp matting in places the pigeons nest to create a disincentive for them to nest there,” Nicklas said. “But we can’t put this matting everywhere they’d nest.”