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Guest Column - October 2008

Pest Control: Birds Versus Ballparks

By Dave Kogan


Take me out to the ball game take me out to the birds…

Baseball season doesn't just bring fans and food to our ballparks. Birds also have become a main attraction, or rather, distraction, when you hit the stands of most sporting stadiums.

Randy Johnson, pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, is known for his fastball, but he delivered one strike this season that ended up killing a dove that was also hoping for a home run.

Catcher Rod Barajas stated, "I'm sitting there waiting for it, and I'm expecting to catch the thing, and all you see is an explosion."

Although these incidents are sometimes unexpected, they are definitely not unusual. On Aug. 4, 1983 Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto while warming up. The Ontario police charged him with animal cruelty. The charges were later dropped, but it was not forgotten.

And baseball hasn't been the only sport inflicted by the birds. Recently, Wimbledon became a bird's playground as pigeons swooped down on Centre Court, distracting players and fans. The visual deterrents in place, which happened to be hawks, had failed to keep the pigeons away from the court and stadium restaurant. Authority members of the tournament decided to take a more abrasive approach and started shooting the pigeons, causing animal-cruelty-free activists to react. The tournament organizers defended their reasoning for shooting the birds, expressing that the pigeon droppings on the restaurant tables were thought to be a health hazard. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals instantly complained and reported the incident to the police. Vice President Bruce Fredrich found the tournament's organizers' decision to shoot the pigeons was merely because the birds were an inconvenience rather than a true health hazard and that they were in a clear violation.

So, here are two incidents where birds have caused players and organizers to be faced with legal complications. However, there are those who have learned their lesson and decided to take a more proactive approach by preventing the birds from invading their stadiums. In 2003 The Great American Ball Park of the Cincinnati Reds quickly developed a bird problem. Hundreds of pigeons and starlings started roosting in the stadium causing health concerns and property deterioration. The pigeon droppings became overwhelming, resulting in 12 hours of excrement cleanup. Declan Mullin, vice president of the ballpark, decided that the park had had enough and decided to turn to a pest control company for help. The park decided to use a polypropylene netting, which would block birds from roosting. Mullin expressed that they saw a dramatic change instantly.

During the same year not far from Ohio, the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field was facing its own bird crisis. Pigeons began to roost on the beams, which supported the upper deck of the stadium, and for the people seated below it was not a pretty sight. Although this was not ideal for Cubs fans, the concern was more aimed toward the concessions, where food was being prepared and served.

Kevin Connelly, the general manager of Premier Pest Elimination in Chicago stated, "Food service and pigeon excrement don't mix."

He was right. Bird feces can carry more than 60 different diseases (some airborne). Histoplasmosis is one of the most common diseases and can cause high fever, blood abnormalities, pneumonia and even death. Cryptococcosis is another disease that comes specifically from pigeon feces and can result in lung infection.

Wrigley Field decided that investing in bird control would prevent them from landing in a courtroom with lawsuits pertaining to unsanitary conditions or slip and fall accidents. Wrigley Field shortly decided to install ultrasonic devices, which would accurately cover the premises of the stadium. The product works by projecting ultrasonic sound waves to repel birds and other nuisance critters. The machine incorporates the birds' own distress calls to repel unwelcome visitors.

Whichever sport you prefer, no stadium is neglected by birds. Baseball, tennis, football—they all at one time or another have faced an issue with birds invading their "playgrounds." Whether or not they've decided to do something about it is the real concern. Besides the annoyance and inconvenience that these pests can cause, the real issue at stake is how it can affect the stadium, players, fans and people's health. Many sporting arenas have taken preventive measures and have invested in some sort of pest control, but those who think they can do without may be batting with the birds.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Kogan is the marketing manager for Bird-X Inc., the "X-perts" in humane and "green" bird pest control since 1964. For more information, visit www.bird-x.com.