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Mystery man releases pigeons by the truckload

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Pigeons flock Monday in Worthington. An unnamed man was seen Saturday, Sept. 1, releasing about 1,000 pigeons in Worthington.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Turkeys aren't the only bird flocking around town this week. An unidentified man, whom witnesses said is from St. Paul, has been dropping off pigeons by the thousands at the Tru Shine Truck Wash in Worthington, according to its employees.

The man released 1,300 pigeons on Sept. 1 and then let 830 go the week before, said John VanEde, the truck wash supervisor.

"When he opened the trailer, it just exploded with birds," VanEde said. "I have no idea why (he did this).

Truck wash employees Marco Garcia and Jose Quijano said they witnessed the man releasing the pigeons.

The man told them he was from St. Paul, but they didn't get a name or license plate number.

VanEde said the man might have picked Worthington to drop off the pigeons because of its close proximity to the highway.

Video footage from the truck wash security cameras on Sept. 1 show the man parked his tractor trailer. He stayed for about three hours, then released the pigeons at about 8:30 a.m and left shortly after.

"The trailer wasn't anything fancy or professional looking," VanEde said. "It didn't look like a bird removal truck."

Robert Humphrey, a spokesman for the department of safety and inspections for St. Paul, said the city is not responsible for the pigeons.

"It's not from the city at all. I find it odd that a truck load of pigeons was dropped off in Worthington," Humphrey said.

He said that private companies are allowed to trap pigeons and relocate them, but that the city doesn't do that.

"We have a very proactive pigeon control program in St. Paul," Humphrey said.

The program St. Paul uses is called OvoControl, which simply put is "birth control" for pigeons. The formula is put into pigeon food.

Erick Wolf, the CEO of Innolytics, the company behind OvoControl, said St. Paul has about 12 automatic feeders placed strategically on rooftops throughout the city.

"Pigeons eat the bait. They still lay eggs but the eggs don't hatch, so the population declines," Wolf said. "This is as humane and green as it gets."

Regarding the Worthington dropoffs, Wolf said: "If they're doing it by the thousands, that's pretty unusual. Why they would do that, I have no idea. It doesn't make any sense."

He said the only two ways to manage pigeon populations is to increase mortality or reduce reproduction.

"Relocating pigeons from urban areas doesn't work. The birds just come back again," Wolf said. "Wherever they built a nest is where they will go back to, no matter how far."

He said many types of birds, including pigeons, have "homing instincts" that allow them to do this.

"If you drop them off 200 miles away, they will beat the truck back," Wolf said. "I don't care what the environment is, I guarantee it."

He said the farther away pigeons are taken from their nests, the more will die trying to fly back due to weather and predators.

Wolf said that the Department of Natural Resources has no jurisdiction over pigeons.

A representative from the Minnesota DNR agreed, saying it doesn't deal with them because they're considered a "domestic animal."

Wolf said people can do whatever they want to pigeons, as long as it's done in a humane manner.

"If somebody is trapping pigeons in St. Paul and then relocating them, no laws are being broken," Wolf said.

He said pigeons have no protection.

"You're allowed to poison pigeons, which is really awful but that's what the state allows," Wolf said.

Some of the pigeons may stick around Worthington for "a couple hours or days," Wolf said. "But the bulk of them are going back to the same exact place where they originated."

While pigeons can carry diseases, Wolf stated that he doesn't think there is a health risk to Worthington.

"I just don't think it's a very nice thing to do," he said.

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.