Shotgun-toting posse targets Newberry S.C. pests.


Mar 11, 2001
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Shotgun-toting posse targets Newberry S.C. pests.

By KENNETH A. HARRIS,  Staff Writer

Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler paced Main Street with his shotgun early Monday as he waited for the intruders.

With a couple of blasts, the city’s top cop downed one of the invaders — a pigeon.

Swindler and eight to 10 others stalked Newberry’s historic district in an effort to rid the city of a growing pests. Several blocks were cordoned off about 7 a.m. as the men — hand-picked by the chief — mounted rooftops or walked downtown streets shooting pigeons as they flew.

Swindler estimated police have been shooting pigeons downtown at least once a year for about 12 years.

“Now, not only businesses are back downtown, but people are living above the businesses. So, this is really the only way you can do it is to cordon off the downtown area and have an organized pigeon shoot.”

The birds, the chief said, are a nuisance. The pigeons have been known to fly into windows, breaking them, Swindler said.

“And, of course, then the disease they spread,” Swindler said. “They’re covered with mites and such. Then, they also defecate all over the place and mess up people’s buildings and the entrances to the buildings.”

Jeff Shacker, the city’s economic development coordinator, said he’s received complaints about the birds. Letters, he said, were sent to residents and business owners informing them of their course of action. Shacker said no complaints were received.

“It’s just a way we’ve found to thin the flock,” Shacker said. “I know over the years we’ve contacted the humane society and some other organizations about how we could effectively deal with them. They offered no counterproposal about how we could thin them. So, Chief Swindler organized this (pigeon shoot).”

Swindler said he chooses marksmen experienced in dove hunting or skeet shooting. He estimated they shot about two dozen pigeons Monday.

John Nichols said he has been participating since the effort began. Through the years, Swindler and Nichols said there have been no property damage or mishaps.

“You can’t trap them,” Nichols said. “And, you don’t want to poison them. Of course, I don’t know how you would do that. And, it’s unbelievable how they multiply.”

But Irene Phipps-Ruff, director for the Newberry County Animal Shelter, said officials might have been able to find an alternative solution. But she said her agency is under funded and has just enough money to deal with problems created by dogs and cats.

“To say that in the past, we haven’t been helpful doesn’t mean in the present we wouldn’t have been helpful or had some more information,” Phipps-Ruff said.

“Agencies having to work together might have solved the problem a whole lot better than just going and shooting them,” she said. “But this particular time, it was not brought to our attention that they were even contemplating doing this or needed assistance.”

Shacker said the pigeon problem is common in downtown areas. But it’s the solution in Newberry that’s unusual.

Nichols remembers the first organized shooting of pigeons in Newberry. “I thought, ‘that’s going to be real strange, standing on Main Street with a shotgun.’ ”
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