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June 3, 2015

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Proposed county ordinance would prohibit feeding ‘flying rats’

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Leila Navidi

Wes Johnson, pigeon control agent, left, and Nephi Oliva, the director of field operations for Nevada Pigeon Control, look for stray pigeons inside an industrial space in North Las Vegas on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009.

It may soon be illegal to feed that bane of urban life, the despoiler of sidewalks, benches and eaves.

An ordinance to prohibit the intentional feeding of pigeons — the proposed ordinance refers to them as “flying rats” — in unincorporated Clark County will be introduced at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally provide food (including, but not limited to grain, seeds, greens, bread crumbs and miscellaneous food scraps) to pigeons on public or private property,” the proposal reads.

It defines pigeons as “being of the species Columba Livia, also known as City Pigeons, Rock Doves, Rock Pigeons or Flying Rats.” It allows certain exceptions to the ban: accidental feeding, lawful trapping of pigeons, caring for injured pigeons in cages, and pigeons kept for “recreation, communication, show, racing or food.”

Pigeon brisket, anyone?

(In fact, at Bellagio’s ritzy Picasso, the roasted pigeon with wild rice risotto goes for $113.)

Chris Giunchigliani

Chris Giunchigliani

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who sponsored an ordinance that led to a spay-and-neuter program for feral cats, is behind the proposal. She could not be reached for comment.

Kevin Parker, the Clark County Parks Maintenance Division assistant manager who implemented a program to give birth control-laced feed to pigeons in three county parks last year, called it a “great idea.”

“Feeding them is what causes them to come to the park,” Parker said. “We have issues of people feeding them, or in a picnic area when food is left behind.”

Nephi Oliva, owner of Nevada Pigeon Control, said that while an ordinance would be a step in the right direction, his eight years of tracking, ferreting out and trapping thousands of pigeons has taught him that intentional feeding isn’t the biggest reason for the valley’s proliferating pigeons.

“It’s maybe 3 to 5 percent of the problem,” Oliva said. “Most of the problem comes from trash.”

Oliva calls his eight air rifle-armed employees “officers” and says he operates like “the Humane Society with a SWAT team — we take a military approach to rounding up every pigeon insurgent.”

Over the years, he’s found the only way to get rid of pigeons is to “get them at the source.” That is, invading a flock’s “operational territory,” finding their nests and rounding up every bird.

“If you know where and how to apply pressure, you can solve the problem very quickly,” he added.

At the same time, if 100 percent of a flock isn’t captured, Oliva says they go into “accelerated replacement breeding, and you get the problem back immediately and with a vengeance.”

To further his aim of a feral pigeon-free society, Oliva says he has an attorney working on a class action lawsuit against the state, which he says is legally responsible for pigeon control.

“Anyone who has spent money for pigeon control should be reimbursed by the state,” he said, adding that he’d like to see a law created to place a surcharge on trash bills to pay for pigeon control.

More than a year ago, Clark County purchased feeders and feed laced with pigeon birth control to help diminish pigeon populations in a few parks. Parker said the birth control is working so well the county intends to introduce it to at least one more park.

“We still have to clean the pigeon poop, but it seems like there’s less of it and fewer birds,” he said. “It’s costing us, but we are a public service, and if we’re getting ahead of the game, if they aren’t reproducing, that’s half the battle.”

After introduction Tuesday, the new ordinance is scheduled to be discussed at a public hearing at the commission’s Jan. 3 meeting.

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