Things sure have changed in Auburn.
These days, all we do is coddle lazy owls and provide eagles with free cataract surgery so they won’t trigger PETA alarms by crashing into windows or whatever. Those days, April 1972 to be exact, were were just walking around killing pigeons with our bare hands.
It was the poop.
Charles Simmons, Auburn’s assistant director of agricultural administration at the time, claimed Auburn’s feathered friends 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, just going crazy with pigeon poison, sprinkling pigeon poison all over the ground… until we noticed that, in the words of the Plainsman, “various small animals such 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.”
It turns out that Plan B 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 condominiums “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, said that Pigeon Forge, though a lovely idea, might not solve Auburn’s immediate pigeon problems. Because we weren’t just talking aesthetics.
Turns out there are some hardcore health risks associated with pigeon droppings–somehow there seems to have also been alarming, try-not-to-breathe amount of it actually inside Comer and Funchess Halls–and the stuff was also damaging buildings.
Acid rain? Try pigeon poop rain. No one wants pigeon poop rain—not students, not townsfolk, not Methodists. That’s right, the pigeons weren’t just being pigeons on campus. They were being pigeons in town. They were being pigeons on our churches!
“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.”
In the end, the pigeons were dealt with, but 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: Auburn, the Sochi of the 70s.
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