High-flying, low-pooping problem
Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Renewable natural resources graduate student Cody Wienk shares his table with one of the many pigeons on Memorial Student Union1s patio. Many students are perturbed about getting pooped on by the pigeons while relaxing or eating.
Make no mistake, you're a target.
Stealth pigeons are aligning themselves above you, and you could be the next victim of a big squishy doodie.
"We are always getting calls from faculty and students about the droppings on the campus - or the droppings on the students," said Chuck Raetzman, UA assistant director of facilities management, adding that pigeons carry 42 known diseases.
Raetzman said that pigeons have been a plague for at least the 30 years he has been a University of Arizona employee.
The Psychology building's facade, which is littered with pigeon droppings and feathers, has been particularly hard-hit, said Steve Holland, director of risk management.
"We have had a number of complaints from graduate students," he said. "But we are working on a solution."
Holland said that on Friday, University Pest Control will give facilities management an estimate for installing nets over the decorative brick.
"I hope that we can fairly quickly solve that one problem," Holland said.
The pigeon problem, however, goes far beyond the Psychology building and encompasses the whole campus, he said.
Last year, people at the UA's Campbell Farm West building, 4101 N. Campbell Ave., fed the pigeons a chemically treated grain to temporarily put them to sleep. They planned to collect the sleeping birds and give them to a state breeding agency, said John Adams, a facilities project manager. The program, which was supposed to last from January to March, only lasted 45 days because the chemical didn't make the pigeons sleepy.
Adams said facilities management may try the program again, which is being tested on pigeons in Phoenix's populated areas, he said.
"We don't want to destroy the pigeons," Adams said. "We are humanely trying to capture them."
Marsh Meyers, animal education manager for the Humane Society, said those methods to deter the pigeons are in line with urban wildlife guidelines.
"Basically if it doesn't present pain to the animal and it just frightens them, then we as a humane society don't have a problem," Meyers said. "I have been a student at the U of A and I know the droppings can cause a big problem."
Facilities management has also strategically placed Nix-O-Lite, metal strips with prongs, on buildings where the birds nest. Raetzman said the metal deters birds for awhile, but after the pigeon droppings build up on the strips, they can nest once again.
"We've even tried owls, snakes and plastic falcons," Raetzman said. "They work for a while, but then they (the pigeons) get used to it."
Facilities management also puts cages on the roofs of some UA buildings to trap the birds, but that method is expensive and labor intensive, Raetzman said.
"We have to check the cages every day," he said. "We just don't have the manpower to do that."
Facilities management may also adopt a remedy commonly used in Japan, which involves stringing nylon fishing line across buildings with high pigeon populations. The pigeons cannot detect the wire, become frightened and alter their flight courses when they hit it, Adams said.
"We are in the process of getting ready to do it," he said. "But we would primarily be moving the birds from one building to the next. We just don't want them around where people are outside studying and eating."
Teresa Hansen can be reached via e-mail at Teresa.Hansen@wildcat.arizona.edu.