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Backlash over feral pigeon cull in Hungerford

HUNGERFORD Town Council is dealing with a backlash against its controversial policy to cull town centre pigeons.

Nevertheless, mayor Helen Simpson said she had received plenty of support from residents for the option of last resort.

An online petition had attracted less than 500 signatures as this newspaper went to press – many from non-residents and a good deal clearly from outside the UK due to the fact they included responses written in several languages.

The petition accuses town councillors of failing to explore alternative options or seeking advice on the infestation problem and claims: “The pigeons are enjoyed by the town.”

In fact, the town council established several working parties in the past decade which sought advice and spent thousands of pounds implementing strategies including netting, spikes, deterrent ‘fire gel’ and public education campaigns about feeding the birds and food littering.

But none were sufficiently effective – complaints from members of the public continued to pour in and some shopkeepers said pigeons were so emboldened that they came into their premises.

Some critics were upset at seeing bodies, although others pointed out that dead pigeons were not an uncommon sight due to disease.

One resident said: “All locals were upset about this; no one had anything bad to say about the pigeons as the birds didn’t cause any trouble.”

However, the NWN has reported how shoppers repeatedly demanded action from the town council after slipping in droppings and one woman reportedly sustained a broken arm.

In 2020 West Berkshire Council’s Public Protection Partnership concluded that there was a growing feral pigeon population in the town, which posed a public health risk.

The birds are also implicated in the risk of spreading avian flu.

And according to a report in Medical News Today, “there may be more than just avian flu to be worried about”.

The article added: “It has been suggested that there are over 60 other diseases that birds and their droppings can carry.

“The problem is especially worrisome in residential areas, as many of them are airborne and can be transferred to humans just by being around droppings.”

Mrs Simpson, who has endured personal online abuse over the issue, said she had been encouraged by the response from most residents and the “silent majority” in the town.

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