By Seth Schmidt
The pigeon population in and around downtown Tracy was depleted early Sunday morning.
Thirty-eight sportsmen turned out for a police-organized pigeon shoot in an effort to reduce pigeon numbers. The Tracy City Council authorized the shoot, in response to citizen complaints about pigeon droppings in the downtown. Large numbers of pigeons have been seen roosting in and around downtown buildings this year.
Police Chief Jason Lichty estimated that 150 pigeons were shot Sunday. Ninety-eight of the birds were recovered and given to four local families, who will use them as food. The remaining downed pigeons could not be retrieved, because they fell in heavy brush along the railroad tracks, a drainage ditch, or on the tops of buildings.
The shoot, Lichty felt, was “very successful.”
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Following a pre-hunt assembly at 5:45 a.m. where safety rules were outlined, shooters were sent to specific areas. None of the buildings in the designed areas were occupied at the time of the hunt. Sentinels were set up to keep pedestrians and traffic from entering the areas. Patrols were established with four-wheelers to watch the perimeter. The shoot was over by about 7 a.m.
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Lichty said that despite the success of the shoot, substantial numbers of pigeons remain in the downtown. Prior to the Sunday hunt, he estimated the downtown had 400 to 500 pigeons.
The chief said that some downtown business owners have taken steps to eliminate areas where pigeons have been roosting. The recent demolition of the Masonic building, he added, won’t have an appreciable impact on pigeon populations. Prior to the demolition, he said the Masonic structure harbored relatively small numbers of pigeons of probably less than 20 birds.
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Sunday’s event wasn’t the first time Tracy has had a controlled pigeon hunt. In 1983 or ’84, under the term of Police Chief Curt Wiese, Tracy also had an organized pigeon shoot.