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By Anna Lothson
Oak Park will soon become less pigeon friendly.
An ordinance amendment introduced at Monday's village board meeting will allow for the humane euthanasia of specific types of sparrows, starlings, and pigeons - the bird village staff calls the peskiest of all.
The continuing presence of a flock of pigeons under the newly upgraded Marion Street el viaduct, along with the mess they create, led village staff to continue looking for options. Already in 2012, $8,300 has been spent on preventative netting and power washing and $3,000 for trapping. Pigeons, however, have found a way to sneak through the netting.
The village board first discussed the issue in February when it approved spending for preventative measures at the viaduct between North and South boulevards. The village received complaints from pedestrians and nearby businesses about the droppings. There were also concerns about the continued costs and tedious cleanup.
Since discovering that the preventive measures had not been effective, health department staff met with a wildlife biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture Division of Wildlife Services for recommendations. The expert suggested a combination of trapping and the installation of bird spike strips on light fixtures to discourage the birds from roosting.
Under the new ordinance, the trapped birds will be humanely euthanized. A maximum of $15,000 is anticipated for activities related to the village's new plans.
Although pigeons are the main problem, the other birds were included since the ordinance follows a statewide standard that other municipalities use, according to Cara Pavlicek, Oak Park's interim village manager. In fact, the draft ordinance language came directly from Winnetka, which has similar problems because of its train viaducts.
Mike Charley, environmental health supervisor in the village, explained to the board that the reason to eliminate pigeons is not purely because of health concerns. Although pigeons are known to carry diseases, he said there aren't many public outbreaks related to sicknesses contracted from pigeons.
"It's really as much of a nuisance as anything to the public and costs to the public," he said. "But if we remove the flock, there is a good chance we can reduce pigeons."
Charley also indicated that because the viaducts are being renovated in the fall, it would be a waste of money to add more nets and continue the cleanup process.
Trustee Bob Tucker asked about the possibility of relocating instead of euthanizing birds, but Charley said its proven pigeons return home.
"Relocation is what we wanted to do," he said. "We don't want to euthanize pigeons."
At the sparsely attended meeting with three trustees missing, the issue was up as a first reading and will be brought back to the board's June 4 meeting for an official vote.