WELLSVILLE Owl decoys fail, so town seeks help with pigeons

Poisoned corn is out; nets are in for preventing the birds from landing on buildings.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When it comes to keeping pigeons off public buildings, Youngstown and Mahoning County are birds of a feather.
Officials from a Columbiana County community hope to take a page out of their northern counterparts' success story in ridding their city of the pesky birds.
"It's a really, really bad problem here," said Councilman Ken Dickey of Wellsville. "We need some help."
The pigeon population in Wellsville has been increasing over the past four or five years, and officials there aren't sure what to do about it, Dickey said.
Poisoning them is not an option because it's been deemed illegal.
In 1977, Youngstown officials used corn laced with strychnine to rid the city of the gray-feathered birds. The Ohio Animal Charity League of Mahoning County sued, saying the measure was inhumane.
The tactic was upheld in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court when then Judge Sidney Rigelhaupt ruled that pigeons have no civil rights. The ruling was affirmed by the 7th District Court of Appeals but was later overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Owl decoys: Dickey said Wellsville officials have tried placing plastic owls on top of buildings, but that hasn't stopped the birds from roosting.
"They're just not roosting next to the owls," he said. Plastic owls have long been thought to deter pigeons.
Hoping to find an ally in Wellsville's battle against the birds, Dickey said he'll contact officials in Youngstown and Mahoning County, which have both netted victories in their frays with the fowl.
"We didn't get rid of them," said Gary Kubic, Mahoning County administrator. "We just don't let them land in certain spots."
The county courthouse used to be a haven for pigeons, but commissioners found a way to drive them away.
When the building was renovated in the late 1980s, special netting was hung over places where the birds once roosted, Kubic said. The netting kept the pigeons from landing on the building, ending the problem there.
Old net: After some 12 years of use, the netting has begun to wear and tear and must be replaced, said Richard Malagisi, facilities director. Commissioners are seeking bids for new netting.
Carmen Conglose, Youngstown deputy director of public works, said the city adopted the same tactic with the same results.
"We've pretty much solved the problem," he said of installing nets outside the building some four years ago. "They're gone and have not returned."
The key is to "isolate and cut off access" to areas where pigeons are likely to roost, like alcoves and areas unexposed to the elements.
The netting is not expensive but can be "labor intensive" to install, Malagisi and Conglose said.

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