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Pigeon population presents downtown nuisance

Some downtown Park Rapids merchants are fed up with the pigeon population and the unappealing mess the birds leave behind on the sidewalks. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

Pigeon droppings on downtown sidewalks is not the image Park Rapids businesses and city leaders want to portray.

The Downtown Business Association (DBA) sees pigeons roosting atop downtown buildings as a real, and growing, problem in this busy district known for heavy foot traffic in the peak summer visitors season.

The city council on Tuesday authorized the DBA to take steps to eradicate the pigeon population through baiting and carcass removal.

According to information presented to the council Tuesday, pigeons have been a nuisance on Main Street for several years. The Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC), with support of the Downtown Business Association, brought forth an initiative to control the pigeon population. The DAC operates the Tin Ceiling store on the 100 block of Main and due to the pigeon problem they power wash the sidewalk daily, and regularly spray the awning in front of the store to remove the accumulated droppings.

The DBA called in a pest exterminator to assess the situation and the DBA decided that baiting pigeons is the desired method to remove the nuisance birds. The Department of Agriculture was contacted and granted permission to bait the birds. The process would most likely involve baiting the pigeons with corn and then place poison for when the birds return to the same location.

"There is a widespread consensus that large populations of pigeons present serious health risks arising from disease organisms that grow in the nutrient-rich accumulations of bird droppings, feathers and debris under a roost. Such is the case when pigeons gather in buildings in downtown Park Rapids," Cynthia Jones and Molly Luther wrote in a letter on behalf of the DBA and submitted to the city.

The Developmental Achievement Center plans to write a grant to cover the estimated $4,000 to $5,000 cost of the pigeon eradication plan.

"After all of our work to beautify downtown, the pigeon issue often takes center stage," the DBA letter states. "For example, a resort owner recently reported that while participating in a sports show in Minneapolis an attendee remarked, 'Oh, you're from that town that has pigeon poop all over the sidewalks.'"

"I don't think that's the brand we want as a city," Jones said in addressing the council Tuesday.

Jones explained the problem has become worse since the old water tower was torn down and now with the likelihood the old seed house on Highway 34 is going to be torn down those pigeons will need to find a new home as well.

"Baiting is not in the minds of some the most attractive way to deal with pigeons, but it is the most efficient and most cost effective way to deal with pigeons," Jones explained.

CHI St. Joseph's president Ben Koppelman sent a letter to the city council in support of the initiative to control the pigeon population downtown, citing it as a health and safety concern.

Pigeons roost around the main entrance at the south lobby and leave droppings on the sidewalks, in and around the main signage on the building, windows and window sills and on the brick siding.

"The pigeon population and roosting is more than a nuisance," Koppelman wrote. "Large populations of pigeons may present serious health issues due to the growth of disease organisms that result from accumulations of bird droppings, roost debris, feathers, etc. Feral pigeons can harbor many pathogens that may be transmitted to humans and nearly 94 percent of the time this is by aerosol transmission. Although the risk for acquiring disease is very low for the general population, those with weakened immune systems (example: cancer, transplant recipients) have nearly 1,000 times greater risk from aerosol diseases."

Koppelman went on to write that although there are other ways to eradicate pigeons, the baiting method proposed by the DAC in their grant request is the most effective and feasible for this situation.

A specific plan for baiting and the removal of pigeon carcasses downtown has not been laid out yet.

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