Campus pigeons undergoing extermination

Facilities management partners with pest control company for pigeon removal and prevention

Mount Allison is undergoing a pigeon removal. Braemar Pest Management, owned by pest control company Rentokil Steritech, has been clearing out pigeons from campus.

When the former Sackville United Church was demolished in Sept. 2015, its feathered inhabitants were scattered throughout Sackville. The pigeons have settled across campus and live in the higher nooks of several buildings including Hart Hall, the library and the Purdy Crawford Centre for the Arts.

Facilities management has been made aware of the issue. “This year I’ve received more complaints about pigeons. It’s been a real concern,” said Neil MacEachern, director of facilities management. “Because for the longest time there weren’t [any].”

Mt. A students have also begun to notice the increased pigeon presence. “I was sitting in the Mary Mellish room on the third floor of the library and … I could hear this really strange noise, and I looked outside and noticed it was pigeons,” third-year student Tyler Hache said.

MacEachern explained in an email that they could not transfer the pigeons elsewhere as they can pose risks to people’s health. “It’s just not fair to take your problem and give it to someone else,” MacEachern said. In addition to the parasites that pigeons may carry, their stool can cause diseases such as histoplasmosis and Newcastle disease, which are associated with respiratory illnesses and pink eye.

“Wherever possible, we try to live trap, and there are situations where we can’t,” said MacEachern, referring to animals like mice and hornets that are also exterminated.

“Part of what makes pigeons a problem is their nesting habits,” MacEachern said. Pigeons are highly likely to return to their nesting spots if they’re not brought at least 60 km away. “Once they get perched and they get any kind of a routine, they just stay, and they’ll always come back,” MacEachern explained.

poor britney, she was so young. Louis Sobol/Argosy

The pigeons are trapped with specially designed pigeon cages before being removed from the site by Braemar. The cages are baited with corn or seed. The removed pigeons are killed off-site by the contractor.

Facilities management did not disclose the current killing method for the pigeons.

According to ornithology lab instructor Gay Hansen, who used to receive pigeon specimens for her class directly from the exterminator, “the methods have changed completely over the years.” Hansen has taught ornithology since 1981.

“At one point there was poisoned corn. Other times they’ve trapped them and then shot them. It’s very humane to just gas them with carbon monoxide. I don’t know whether that’s used at all,” Hansen said.

Every year, the local contractor would give Hansen around 15 to 18 dead pigeons. About 20 years ago, she stopped receiving pigeons from the contractor, and since then communication between them has stopped.

Hansen is disappointed that the exterminator no longer offers its pigeons. “It would be lovely if we could use them [again] and then they would at least have a purpose,” she said.

The University is taking steps to prevent pigeons from returning. “As part of this, what we have done and will continue to do is develop some preventative measures to make it uncomfortable for them to settle,” MacEachern said. Spikes and netting are being added to campus buildings to prevent pigeons from perching.

Mt. A spends approximately $10,000 on standard pest control yearly, with an additional estimated $7,000 this year for pigeon control and preventative measures.

Pest control contractor Rentokil Steritech declined to comment to the Argosy.

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