Crews tasked with cleaning a Saskatchewan bridge are in for a dirty job.
The City of Saskatoon says that over the last 50 years one of its bridges has accumulated nearly 350 tonnes of pigeon poop — which is roughly equal to 230 cars parked on the bridge.
It says the feces adds unnecessary weight and the pigeon droppings contain uric acid which can damage concrete.
The facelift also means the extermination of about 1,500 members of the feathered flock that makes the Sid Buckwold Bridge home.
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The city says relocating or displacing the birds is not recommended because they are likely to fly back or move into other private properties or civic spaces.
A local wildlife advocate is disappointed and questions why alternatives can’t be found that would allow the birds to live.
“In Saskatchewan, a very, very, very common response is if it pisses you off, shoot it,” says Jan Shadick, volunteer director of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.
Shadick blames Saskatoon’s approach on a regional attitude towards so-called pesky wildlife.
“Everybody’s getting really mad at the pigeons, but if you didn’t clean your house for 50 years, I’m going to guess it would probably be condemned.”
In emails to The Canadian Press, a city spokesman says the bridge was designed with more than 30 cavities underneath, which make the structure rather cosy for pigeons to nest, but are difficult to reach.
“The challenge has always been access to these areas. They are essentially inaccessible over the river and the most efficient plan was to wait until the bridge rehab project,” Mark Rogstad wrote.
Clearing out the pigeons and their poop was set to begin this week. The city says once finished, it will take steps to deter the birds from renesting.
Canadian cities take different approaches to dealing with pigeons.
On other bridges in Saskatoon, the city uses mesh and barriers to prevent roosting and utilizes falcons around its waste-water treatment plant and landfill.
Regina and Vancouver rely on pigeon spikes, protective netting or cages to keep pigeons off their facilities.
Toronto and Calgary do not practise pigeon control.
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A spokeswoman for the city of Ottawa says there’s no bylaw for regulating wild animals on private property, but the city recommends that people animal-proof their homes.
Shadick says she supports non-lethal ways to manage wildlife and believes if Saskatoon wants to be seen as an environmentally friendly, forward-thinking city it should rethink its plan.
“The pigeons are simply doing what they do,” she says.
“They’re living. They’re eating. They’re procreating. They’re being pigeons. They’re being birds.”
— By Stephanie Taylor in Regina
The Canadian Press