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Birds walking a fine line

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 22, 1999
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John Pasyon Lee
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Campus pigeons are in for a shock.

UA Facilities Management officials spent $4,000 installing electrical wires that carry a mild shock to carelessly-pooping pigeons.

The latest in a number of attempts to curb the pooping epidemic, the new "line control system," was installed in December near the Psychology building - an area prone to problems with indiscriminate pigeons.

The mild electrical buzz is designed to divert the campus' estimated 1,000 pigeons away from the university community, said Chuck Raetzman, assistant director at UA Facilities Management.

"It doesn't kill the pigeons, but gives them a mild shock," Raetzman said, adding that it is similar to a person walking across dry carpet and touching a door knob.

The wire is designed to keep pigeons away from their normal pooping spots, Raetzman said.

"The training period is maybe 12 to 15 times," he said. "You only get slapped in the face so many times before you're sure to get out of the area."

This is not the first form of prevention the department has tried. UA Facilities Management staff fed the birds grain containing sleeping agents last year.

"That's been abolished because it doesn't work," said John Adams, a facilities project manager. "It didn't reduce the number of pigeons."

The department also used rubber snakes and plastic owls to scare the critters off. Another idea required painting building ledges to give the birds "hot feet" when they landed on the paint.

The birds ultimately grew accustomed to the phony predators and hot paint, causing facilities management to resort to more complex methods.

"These pigeons are very smart, they catch on," Raetzman said.

Another innovation, due within the next few months, will have officials string a fishing line between buildings to divert the pigeons. This "self-monitoring program" will be utilized on roofs or in flight paths to hit birds' wing tips and frighten them in flight.

"It doesn't harm them," Adams said. "It changes the location of where they nest or roost."

While the pigeon problem is not entirely cleaned up, more prevention techniques are forthcoming.

"We're working with custodians on a tentative list of pretty prevalent buildings," Raetzman said, adding that little areas over doors facades will be on the hit list.

Adams called the prevention tactics a humane effort.

"We don't want to harm the pigeons and we don't want to harm any students, employees or workers." Adams said. "We just want to control it."