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By Anna Lothson
Pigeons in Oak Park will live to see another day.
The recommendation from the public health department to adopt an ordinance that would have allowed for trapping and euthanizing of pigeons, sparrows and starlings was stopped Monday night.
The case, specifically related to the Marion Street train viaduct, came home to roost after the initial report was released, and pigeon proponents flocked to the village board meeting Monday. Due to the attention the issue received in the media, Village President David Pope started the meeting by informing the audience that the issue was being removed from the agenda to be referred back to staff.
The announcement caused a small round of applause in the audience. Pope reminded people the issue was not up for vote anymore, but some still made their opinions heard.
"The preference of the board is not to spend money to kill pigeons," Pope said.
The initial report from the public health department pointed out that the village had already spent $11,000 for trapping, netting and power washing to combat the issue. The ordinance, proposed two weeks ago, indicated that a maximum of $15,000 would be needed for the pest control management program, which included a combination of bird spike and traps to be used before euthanizing pigeons.
Marie Perkins was one resident who homed in on the pigeon issue, saying she didn't understand why the village would consider such drastic measures.
"Pigeon poop is not as much of a nuisance as what humans cause," she said, sporting a "Mercy for Animals" T-shirt. "I don't understand where this is coming from. This is not what Oak Park is about. … This is not a green solution."
A handful of other residents spoke about the value of pigeons, including one woman who showed up holding bird spikes as she expressed her disagreement. Another told compared the statistical improbability of getting sick from pigeons to being struck by lightning, saying lightning was a more likely option.
"Go with your heart and vote against killing pigeons," Perkins said.
Oak Park resident Jenny Tiner was concerned about the current measures being used to deter pigeons, which includes netting that the pigeons have managed to sneak through. She said pigeons are being trapped behind the netting and asked the board when the netting would come down.
Pope responded by saying if the pigeons found a way in, they could find a way out. Tiner disagreed, however, and insisted the village take down the nets immediately. No further discussion on the netting issue took place.
When the euthanasia measure was initially proposed, Mike Charley, environmental health supervisor in the village, said killing pigeons was not the preferred option but a last resort recommended by animal specialists at the United States Department of Agriculture's Division of Wildlife Services.
At the May 21 meeting when it originally came up, only four members of the board were present so a vote was not taken. Pope said he spoke with trustees individually during the past two weeks, and there was consensus that the issue should not move forward. He said there's no indication that the matter will come before the board anytime soon as it's being referred back to staff.