DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Pigeons have been a nuisance for Jefferson County High School around their stadium.
To reduce the health risk and damage caused by pigeon waste, the school turned to a wildlife removal specialist they've consulted with in the past.
The school said they were advised of a bird repellent called '4 the Birds' that would safely deter the creatures, but after pigeons and some songbirds ended up sick -- wildlife lovers said it did more harm than good.
"Every little life is part of the tapestry that we're apart of," said home-based wildlife rehabilitator Lynne McCoy.
When JCHS parent Danielle Haehn saw an injured bird in the school's parking lot, she didn't think twice.
"The bird couldn't open its mouth at all, it couldn't use its wings, all the feathers were glued completely shut," said Haehn.
The pigeon was covered in a sticky substance and completely helpless.
"They would have literally sat out there and thirst and starved to death. That's a very cruel death," she said.
Haehn immediately turned to McCoy for help.
"I've seen nothing like this," said McCoy, who has more than 40 years of experience.
She began rehabilitating the bird with multiple baths a day doing everything she could to bring it back to health.
But two more pigeons and two songbirds landed in Mccoy's hands, all from the same parking lot. A week later on Monday, she said the pigeons are still suffering and another starved bird arrived in her care.
The high school had recently placed bird repellent on the grounds to help with an ongoing problem. School officials said it was an approved product, but Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials said nothing should have harmed the pigeons that way.
"They're still living, breathing. It may not be a companion animal, but they still need a chance at life," said Haehn.
With every bath, the pigeons get a little bit cleaner and closer to getting back in the sky.
The song birds didn't survive, but thanks to Mccoy and Haehn, the pigeons still have a chance.
"God bless the people that cared enough to stop and rescue them and any other animal. That's what real humanity is," said McCoy.
The TWRA is investigating the incident. Pigeons are not protected by federal or state government.
School leaders said it was their intention to provide a healthy environment for students. They gave 10News this statement:
A concerned parent notified my office earlier this week concerning two sick pigeons that were seen on the campus of Jefferson County High School. In preparation for the first full week of athletic events at the high school campus, the entire stadium was pressure washed. Following the pressure washing of the stadium, an approved bird repellent was placed to address the pigeon problem. While not totally conclusive, a couple of the pigeons may have ingested this repellent prior to the product having time to set up and then became sick. It is unfortunate and accidental that the pigeons became sick.
In recent months, the stadium has experienced an increased problem of pigeons making the stadium their home and leaving significant amounts of droppings. These droppings pose a health risk to both our students and for those attending sporting events at the stadium. The area under the stadium has concession serving areas, storage rooms, locker rooms, a training room, and restrooms. In addition to the health risk associated with pigeon droppings, the pigeon droppings damaged items used for the senior play beyond repair.
Prior to using the repellent, district personnel consulted with a wildlife removal specialist that the school system has used in previous years. During this consultation, our school system was advised of a bird repellent made by ‘4 the Birds’. It is unfortunate the birds became sick, but our intention was to provide a safe and healthy atmosphere for our students and spectators.