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The great Auburn University pigeon extermination of 1972

Don’t know exactly what we’re looking at here, but it looks sinful.

You know, things have changed in Auburn in 41 years. I mean, these days we’re coddling all those lazy owls and providing eagles with free cataract surgery so they won’t trigger the PETA alarm by crashing into windows or whatever. Those days, April 1972 to be exact, were were just walking around and killing pigeons with our bare hands. ‘Cause they just wouldn’t stop pooping.

Charles Simmons, Auburn’s assistant director of agricultural administration at the time, claimed the birds caused “a mess with their bowel movements by leaving their feces all over the grounds, especially around Comer Hall.”

And so, according to The Plainsman, university officials “ordered the killing of pigeons for ‘defacing’ university buildings.”

Plan A: Poison… easy, simple… so we started poisoning the pigeons, sprinkling pigeon poison all over the ground… until we noticed that “various small animals as squirrels had succumbed along with the pigeons.”

Plan B: Traps, special pigeon-only traps strategically situated atop all the poop-covered buildings and baited with corn. Then all you had to do according to Simmons was to break “their necks just as you would a chicken’s.”

But that didn’t sit well with everyone, even in pre-PETA 1972. The wife of an Auburn history professor ratted the university out to the Friends of Animals, because she apparently thought the cages themselves decapitated the pigeons or something. The Friends wrote an unfriendly letter to Auburn to say they were “appalled to learn of an institution of higher education departing from the concern of philosophy and humanitarianism to indulge in barbaric acts.”

Then they called us sadists. The overpopulation wouldn’t be solved by neck-wringing, they said, but by building pigeon condos “in areas where people could take pleasure in feeding them. The eggs are laid and you simply assign one janitor to make a small pinprick in each egg this stopping reproduction.”

But even the president of Auburn’s animal-loving Wildlife Society chapter, which had been placing its own, larger cages around campus in order to trap pigeons not for extermination but possible research purposes (whatever that meant), said that might not solve Auburn’s immediate pigeon problems. Because apparently we weren’t just talking aesthetics—there were some hardcore health risks associated with the droppings (somehow there seems to have also been alarming, try-not-to-breathe amount actually inside Comer and Funchess Halls), and they were also damaging buildings.  You’ve heard of acid rain? Try pigeon poop rain. No one wants pigeon poop rain—not students, not townsfolk, not Methodists. Nope, the pigeons weren’t just being pigeons on campus. They were being pigeons in town. They were even being pigeons in church!

“Pigeons have left huge amounts of waste and some have died in the roof of the United Methodist Church downtown,” the Plainsman wrote. “Rain has seeped through the waste and caused damage to the building.”

Lynch assured Plainsman readers the university’s extermination efforts didn’t have Auburn pigeons in danger of extinction.

“There really are too many of them and they are becoming a widespread problem.”

Related: That time a cow won Miss Auburn.


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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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