posted by April 7 at 11:49 AMon
posted by news intern Chris Kissel
Last week, pigeons began appearing downtown with four-inch darts lodged in their heads. Befuddled onlookers snapped pictures of the gruesome sight—the pigeons, still alive and strutting, bobbing heads skewered on what appeared to be blow darts, shot from long, lung-powered tubes. Based on a few tips after Schmader first wrote about it, we decided to look into the gory story.
Although the darts appear to have been expertly aimed, the pigeons continue to live and breathe because, according to Dr. Conrad Kornman at the Broadway Veterinary Hospital, the darts “missed all of their vital organs,” and, additionally, “their brains are very small.” Small enough to evade the incoming darts, and small enough to allow the pigeons to continue stalking the Seattle waterfront like zombies. Still, the King County prosecutor’s office has filed no charges and SPD has been left with little clue as to the identity of the would-be pigeon assassin.
National, state and regional divisions of the Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Parks Department and Animal Control, all of which are involved in various wildlife control efforts, denied involvement in the dartings. Sean Carrell, problem wildlife coordinator with Washington Fish and Wildlife, said government agencies often try to control the bird population, but that “folks within the trapping community would never do something like that.” The attacks on pigeons are more likely a case of disgruntled landowners “taking the law into their own hands,” Carrell says.
Dr. John Huckabee, a wildlife veterinarian with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, agrees that the acts are probably the work of a lone gunman. He added that incidents such as this occur on an annual basis, with a usual spike in the spring and summer months. “As it gets sunnier and the days grow longer, we see an unfortunate number of birds people have been using for target practice,” he says.
Licenses are not required to exterminate the birds. Usually, businesses choose to implement humane, non-lethal methods of keeping them away, such as nets and spikes. Sometimes, says Carrell, emotions run high, and what starts as a matter of housekeeping becomes a personal vendetta, ending, in this case, in an untold number of pigeons meandering city streets with dart-pierced skulls.