North Walsham pigeons’ death sentence lifted

Pigeons in North Walsham have been given a stay of execution after news of a planned cull prompted an outcry and alternative suggestions from animal lovers.

Environmental chiefs have agreed to a trial partnership with a pigeon lover and an animal sanctuary who will remove birds trapped by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and find homes for them, or release them, elsewhere.

James Wilson, the council's environmental protection team leader, said he hoped the partnership would remove the need to cull altogether but he was not ruling one out if the measures didn't work.

NNDC's plans to trap and humanely destroy pigeons were revealed by the News earlier this month.

The move, backed by North Walsham Town Council, followed years of complaints about the growing numbers of birds in the town centre which splatter pavements with droppings and nest debris and congregate in 'hot-spots,' causing a nuisance and potential health hazard.

An on-line version of the story attracted 44 comments and 91pc of more than 360 people voted 'no' in a poll asking whether they supported the cull.

Mr Wilson said he was not surprised by the level of reaction. He added: 'We have received both positive and negative reactions; most of the support has come from local people. A lot of the negative responses have come from people outside the county.'

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Among those contacting the council were the PACT animal sanctuary, based in Hingham, near Dereham, and pigeon lover Cynthia Roberts, from Norwich.

Chris Rockingham, co-founder of PACT, said NNDC would be passing on trapped adult birds which PACT would keep in an aviary until homes could be found for them with pigeon lovers. Alternatively, they would be released after a minimum of three months when they would have adjusted to a new location and would not try and return to North Walsham. Mrs Rockingham said: 'We will find locations where pigeons are wanted.'

She added: 'Emotions are running quite high on this. It's the height of the breeding season and a cull would leave many baby pigeons to die in their nests which is horrible. Whether or not you agree that pigeons are a nuisance, I don't think anyone would agree that babies should be left to starve to death.' Rescued baby birds would be hand-reared, she said. Mrs Rockingham urged shopkeepers to proof their premises to prevent new pigeons moving in.

Ms Roberts could not be contacted but her Pigeon and Dove Rescue website states that she has begun to remove young birds from their nests in Market Place, including three from a ledge above the Break charity shop and three from above an off-licence. Any eggs found would be placed in an incubator or under her hens, she adds.

Eric Seward, NNDC's cabinet portfolio holder for the environment and a North Walsham town councillor, said the cull had been part of a package of measures to try and reduce the number of pigeons causing a problem with excreta in the town. Other controls which would still be pursued included spikes, netting and persuading people not to leave out food.

He added: 'What is paramount to me is reducing the number of pigeons. Personally, provided this new policy solves the problem, it's done humanely, and the pigeons don't return to North Walsham, that's fine.'

A selection of comments received on our website (www.northnorfolknews.co.uk) to news of the North Walsham cull:

Vodster: 'A cull is seriously needed in Norwich city centre as well. The pigeons are a serious menace in and around the marketplace and a health hazard around all the fast food stalls. I am sick and tired of being dive-bombed and not being able to sit on a bench without running the risk of a deposit landing on me. They do carry disease - they're not called flying rats for no reason.'

Tinkerbell: 'What a great idea, now how about something is done about the many pigeons in Cromer, too? There are actually people I have seen who daily feed these disgusting creatures with bird seed - people need educating.'

OwlMomma: 'When are we going to stop killing our wildlife? The answer to everything seems to be 'kill it' Do the people voting for the killings really want to live in a world devoid of wild creatures? The fact that people are feeding the pigeons shows that some people want them to be there, please, just leave them be.'

FlyinGreyDove: 'Culls do NOT work. When you cull pigeons, it means more food for the surviving ones and their young. If pigeons have access to a lot of food they will breed and those babies will survive (and not die of malnutrition).'

Daisy Roots: 'Those who observe the countryside cannot help but notice the increase in the number of pigeons of all kinds - feral pigeons, which breed in towns, have to feed somewhere and can damage many crops.'

john norton: 'People for the Preservation of Pigeons is concerned with the protection and preservation of mankind's oldest domestic bird, the gentle and loyal pigeon. We support pro-pigeonism in order to promote their positive portrayal in society. Pigeons bring joy to millions who appreciate how they animate our cities. Pigeons were routinely used in wartime as airborne couriers flying over rough terrain and behind enemy lines carrying messages strapped to their legs.'

julie: 'Leave the pigeons alone. Post WWll pigeons were awarded 32 Dickin Medals for their valuable efforts in getting messages through. During this period, they received the most medals out of the dogs, cats and horses put together. Shame on those who so easily kill a living sentient animal whose ancestors served this country well.'

Express Pest Control: 'When seen feeding feral pigeons, the public should be educated in Norwich or North Walsham (and elsewhere) that feeding them will mean more pigeon suffering in the long term - hence this cull. Also, litter needs to be strictly controlled. A cull should really be the last option. Unfortunately, NNDC are responsible for public safety (slips, falls, infections, cleaning etc) regarding this issue - unless someone else would like to accept responsibility? Not me! At least NNDC had the foresight to react, unlike some other local councils in this cash-strapped age.'

SDMA: 'When given the chance they [pigeons] are shown to be intelligent, communicative, gentle, brave, clean, comedic, loving, monogamous and trying to survive like the rest of us. More education, enquiring minds and good hearts are needed for this and other issues where to kill and eliminate is the first knee-jerk response.'

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