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Rats with wings

My mother would be so proud. A reporter e-mailed me yesterday asking if she could interview me for a follow-up story she's doing on our hot, controversial, at-the-moment news here in my neck of the woods. The problem? Pigeons. Or, more appropriately, what to do about them...or not.

I never imagined myself as a spokesperson for pigeon control.

But I live in a fairly animal-hugging village where we grow our own food, keep our own bees & chickens, everybody has dogs, we eat organic free range this and that. So the subject of pigeon euthanasia touches a nerve.

It all started because we had a previous law on the books prohibiting the killing of birds. (What that means for backyard chicken-keepers, I have no clue.) So when complaints started piling in about the pigeon poo under the L tracks, the Village Board decided to pass a new ordinance allowing for the euthanasia of pigeons, sparrows, and starlings. All invasive, unprotected species mind you.

Nevermind the mess, the nuisance, the disease-carrying possibilities. Nevermind that we already control rats, spray for mosquitoes, etc.. Falcons have been suggested. Fake owls. Birth control.

How does this relate to parenting? Well, they're a little young to understand. But it fits perfectly in with the idea that respecting animals is only the tip of a very large iceberg that involves thinking about the ways that animals and people get along, what kind of relationship we have, environmental stewardship. I love wild birds. These are not cardinals singing in a tree or pigeons in nature perched gleefully on sea cliffs. These are city pigeons getting fat in a habitat they weren't meant for.

I think farm folk may understand it a little better. Even some of my hunting friends...where I've had a kind of "evolved" point of view not unlike Obama slowly backing gay marriage. Really, hunting is the ultimate local, sustainable food source if you're eating what you kill. It's the same way we need to get cows out of concentrated feeding operations (CAFOs) and into green pastures. One does not really make me hungry for a steak. The other does.

Keep in mind the ordinance is for the humane killing of pigeons, too. Though I have plenty of hunter friends who would love to take the captured ones to a meadow, send some dogs in, and shoot them with shotguns.

It's one thing to protect animal habitat when it's a wetland and we're trying to stop a housing development from being built. It's another when we're talking about L tracks that have been around for 100 years in an urban area where people have to step around piles of pigeon poop to get to work.

It's about balance and, in this case, I'm fine with the pigeons going bye-bye. Sorry, PETA, but let's not get so in love with individual animals that we forget the bigger picture about how animals and people have to live together.

The pigeons did nothing wrong. If anyone has a lovely farm they could go to, I'd favor that. But I also think the village shouldn't spend money playing bird taxi. Any volunteer group that wants to help out some at-risk pigeons, by all means...but if nobody steps up I see little alternative.

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