Campaigners are calling for a humane solution to Spalding town centre’s pigeon problem after the council decided to use a hawk to scare the birds off.
The Foundation for Feathered Friends, and allies such as Kevin Newell from Humane Wildlife Solutions, said the use of the bird of prey could cause distress and would be a waste of tax payers money as the pigeons would return to the town once the scheme ends.
South Holland District Council bosses have, however, moved to reassure people the trained predator will not attack the pigeons during the 12-week trial and said they will listen to feedback.
The authority has received numerous complaints over the years about the birds and their droppings covering the town centre. They recently called on residents to stop feeding them.
Denise Theophilus, from the North Wales based foundation, said campaigners just wanted the council to tackle the problem “kindly”.
She said it was “easy to beat up on” the birds because they were incredibly trusting of people.
“It’s an intelligent creature, it must feel pain and distress and confusion and fear and all the rest of it the same as we can.
“There’s no reason to go this route, there’s no reason to be cruel when you can be kind.”
“If it’s managed properly the pigeon population will not increase, it will decrease, but with culling they will breed faster in order to fill the gaps,” she added.
She indicated pigeons should be given more respect, especially considering their role delivering messages not only in the first and second world wars but also as far back as the Romans.
Kevin said the trial would be a “waste of tax payers money”.
“Hawking does nothing more than scare away the pigeons only for them to return when the hawk is gone.
“[It] can result in young squabs being left on their own, resulting in them dying from a lack of heat or starvation.
“Hawking is not a humane way. It’s simply trying to put a plaster on a wound.”
He suggested alternate solutions could be found by, for instance, redirecting pigeon feeders to different locations such as a brownfield sites or areas of local parks and slowly attracting pigeons to those.
Councillor Rodney Grocock, SHDC’s Portfolio Holder for Assets and Planning, was adamant the hawk would not attack the pigeons and was only flown in order to “agitate” them into moving on.
To his knowledge no pigeon had been attacked, he added.
“I’ve never seen a pigeon that’s been downed by the hawk, or in distress. I’ve never seen any cruelty.”
“The exercise SHDC took was not one of cruelty,”
He admitted he had no guarantee from the pest company that pigeon’s would not return to the town.
However, said no complaints had been made so far and that he himself had noticed fewer birds in the town centre already.
“The last thing I would want to do is have a hawk attack a pigeon, drop in front of a young child and rip it apart,” he said, adding he had guarantees from the company involved.
“I’m an animal lover. That’s why I made it absolutely crystal clear for myself that no pigeons would be attacked. We just want to move them on.”
He said the big thing was to tackle the “guano” because “it’s so disgusting, it’s so dirty”.
He added it would also be a “great deal of wasted taxpayers money” to continue sending out specialist teams to cleaning the guano off the buildings.
However, he said once the trial had been completed it would be reviewed and any suggestions taken on board.