FAIRBANKS — One of the places where pigeons congregate downtown is the parking garage on Lacey Street.
Twice per year, a parking garage employee must put on a Tyvek suit, wear a respirator and scrape about 75 gallons of pigeon dung from the concrete floors.
The droppings are loaded into thick bags and disposed of in the hazardous materials area at the landfill.
“Pigeon crap weighs a ton,” said Marcus Dodge, executive director of the Fairbanks Parking Authority. “It’s not a lot of fun to clean up.”
Dodge has noticed in recent years the downtown pigeon population seems to be growing. Others agree. Businesses are experimenting with ways to deter the bird.
The pigeons are a nuisance, Dodge said, and their poop is damaging property.
The droppings contain ammonia and uric acids that are eating away at the sealant on the parking garage’s concrete floor.
The pigeon guano also contains communicable diseases, though the risk of catching a disease from pigeon poop is low.
One pigeon can produce up to 25 pounds of guano per year, according to a government report “Curbing the Pigeon Conundrum,” detailing the pigeon problem in New York City.
A hatch on a Swedish church tower inadvertently left open since the 1980s resulted in two tons of pigeon droppings collecting in the tower, according to news reports.
Pigeon droppings are blamed for speeding the decay of a bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring many more.
In Fairbanks, roofers last summer discovered six inches of pigeon dung on the roof of the Courthouse Square, a maintenance worker said.
Cathie Harms, spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said pigeons were brought to Fairbanks by hunters and dog trainers. They are not a native bird.
“Pigeons are pretty darn flexible,” Harms said. “They will eat a variety of food. They are prolific breeders. They will roost anywhere they can get a degree of shelter.”
Charlie Cole, who has kept an office in downtown Fairbanks since 1957, said he has noticed the pigeon problem is getting worse.
Cole didn’t pay much attention to the bird until recent years, he said.
They are nesting near his building, and Cole has been talking with his neighbors about collaborating to fend off the bird.
“They leave droppings around warm air outlets where they congregate,” said Cole, a former Alaska Attorney General. “I think it’s a nuisance.”
A couple of months ago, a maintenance worker for the Springhill Suites Marriot decided to try a recording of predator birds to deter pigeons from gathering on the eaves of the hotel.
The recording could be heard a couple of blocks away and annoyed some of the hotel’s neighbors.
“The machine is off,” said Penny Cotten, vice president of marketing and communications for the company that manages the hotel. “There is no point. It doesn’t work. People don’t like it.”
Architect David Whitmore, who owns a building on Third Avenue, said 15 to 20 pigeon nests were discovered in the gap where the corner of his building meets three neighboring buildings.
“It’s poopsville,” said Whitmore, who is thinking of putting a net over the gap so the pigeons move on.
Whitmore is indifferent to the pigeon problem.
“It’s always good to have tolerance with animals,” he said. “We’re in this community together.”
Robert Franklin, a maintenance foreman for JL Properties Inc., which manages the Courthouse Square and the Northward apartment building, has a different point of view. He describes pigeons as flying rats.
Pigeons make extra work for guys like Franklin.
“They’re a hazard to the equipment. They’re a hazard to people,” he said. “They get into stuff they are not supposed to.”
Franklin uses spike strips and owl decoys to repel pigeons with mixed success, he said.
He moves the owl decoys once the pigeons get used to them.
Harms said the best way to deter pigeons is to eliminate their source of food.
“We are aware that some people are feeding pigeons,” she said. “If there wasn’t as much food, there wouldn’t be as many pigeons.”
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