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Pigeons remain problem

Washington County officials have seen a decrease in the pigeon population in downtown Jonesborough, but not to the extent they had hoped.
Through a joint $2,165 contract with the county and town, USDA Wildlife Services agents in January began a five-week process of placing toxicant-treated bait on building roofs pigeons frequent and at feeding sites.
A toxicant is a substance used to poison a problem animal, typically through ingestion. USDA is the only organization authorized to use that particular toxicant, which is designed to affect the pigeons when they roost.
The goal was never to eradicate the pigeons but instead reduce the population, which was causing increasing damage to building structures and the surrounding concrete.
Because the USDA deemed the downtown pigeons to be homegrown rather than transitory, further treatment should not have been necessary once the population was diminished.
Purchasing Agent Willie Shrewsbury said removing 24 louvers on the back of the courthouse also helped, but the clock tower of the courthouse continues to attract a large concentration of the birds.
“We may look at installing new spikes when we’re doing the exterior renovation work because the ones from 20 years ago are now flat,” he said.
Spikes were one of the treatments suggested by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which strongly opposed the county’s use of a toxicant, declaring it a slow, torturous process for the birds.
Other recommendations from PETA to deter pigeons from roosting were statues of natural predators such as owls and hawks, sonic devices, mylar streamers, flags and balloons. More expensive options considered by the county include netting, which can cost $30,000; a contraceptive method that promises a 50 percent reduction over a three-year period; and traps.