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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Council gives bounty hunter OK to shoot pigeons on BNSF property

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Glendive City Council officially authorized a local varmint bounty hunter to begin targeting the city’s pigeon population with an air rifle at their meeting Tuesday night.

In a 5-2 vote, the council granted Daniel Thomason a waiver to use an air rifle within city limits to target pigeons on BNSF Railway property. Council members Gerald Reichert and Avis Anderson cast the two no votes, with Councilman Mike Dryden absent from Tuesday night’s meeting. 

Thomason has been contracted by BNSF in the past to shoot pigeons from around the roundhouse in the rail yard.

At the April 24 city Ordinance Committee meeting, several council members also credited Thomason for being a contracted bounty hunter for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, hired to shoot coyotes from a helicopter. However, FWP Region 7 information officer Marla Prell sent notice to the Ranger-Review on Thursday that Thomason is not contracted with FWP as council members said, but rather with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In any case, following Tuesday night’s vote, Thomason will be allowed to discharge his air rifles at pigeons on BNSF property. That would include the Barry Street underpass. Public Works Director Jack Rice had noted at the Ordinance Committee meeting that only the street surface belongs to the city, while the structure belongs to the railroad. Rice also said at that meeting he would be willing to work with Thomason to close the street off during low traffic periods so that he could target the mass of pigeons which roost underneath the structure.

Tuesday night’s vote did not come without some controversy, as Reichert expressed his strong opposition to the idea, claiming that trying to control the pigeons by shooting them would actually do more harm than good.

Reichert said that shooting at pigeons will only serve to temporarily drive them away from the area they are being shot at as well as cause them to actually multiply further.

“It will actually be a positive reinforcement. In other words, as the pigeons die, they will increase the number of fledglings they produce,” Reichert said. “In fact, long term, we will have more pigeons due to the depredations, that’s the facts.”

Reichert said that the number of pigeons is directly tied to just two things — habitat and food source — and that until the city takes steps to begin denying them those two things, the pigeon population will never be brought under control. He said that in his mind, the place to begin would be closing off habitat to them, which he said starts with the number of old, abandoned buildings downtown which large numbers of pigeons roost on and in, like the Jordan Inn.

“We’re going to have to bite the bullet and start talking about the Jordan, start talking about the dilapidated buildings and the rooftops,” Reichert said. “Until we start to address those issues, we’re never going to solve the pigeon issue.”

Councilwoman Betsey Hedrick replied that she saw Reichert’s point, but believed granting Thomason the waiver was a first, small step the city could take to begin trying to do something to rein in the pigeon population.

“I agree with you, but I think we should take this opportunity to move forward rather than kicking the can down the road,” Hedrick said. “I think it’s a doable task, it’s just a matter of identifying the problems and getting to work on them. This may not be a fix, but at least it’s a way to get going on it.”


Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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