CONTROLS on Salisbury’s feral pigeon population to limit the damage they cause are being investigated.

City council officers have been instructed to look into humane ways of reducing the birds’ numbers.

As well as culling, these could include putting out birdseed laced with a contraceptive, though there are fears that this might affect other wild birds.

Other options include building pigeon lofts where the birds can lay their eggs, then removing or ‘spiking’ the eggs.

Wiltshire Council is being urged to prosecute Network Rail to make it sort out one of the worst infestations, at Fisherton railway bridge.

Restaurateur Cllr Atiqul Hoque said: “I have a business in that part of the world, and a lot of my customers are scared of walking under that bridge.

“They have to ask themselves ‘Do I feel lucky?’”

The issue was discussed at Monday’s city council meeting at the Guildhall, where Cllr Matthew Dean warned: “You have to get extremely aggressive and legalistic to get them (Network Rail) to face up to their responsibilities.”

New wire mesh had been put up on the four high points of the bridge, which had been “moderately successful”, but “their excuse for not doing the whole structure is that they would have to close the road”.

He said: “It’s not just about nuisance from excrement landing on your head.

“In terms of leisure, tourism and retail, it’s about the city image.

“We have very important medieval buildings, and English Heritage and the Civic Society are very concerned about the damage to them.

“There’s also an issue of animal welfare.

“Life as a feral pigeon is pretty brutish and short. Huge numbers have died as summer heats up and food becomes scarcer.”

He added: “When I look at those ladies of a certain age who are spreading industrial quantities of bird seed around the Maltings I wish they would reflect on the nuisance and the disease carried.”

Cllr Margaret Willmot wondered if there could be bylaws to stop people feeding birds in the Maltings.

She also pointed out that litter and takeaway waste encourage pigeons and rats.

And she highlighted the “good work” being done by the peregrine falcons nesting on the Cathedral.

“They enjoy nothing better than tearing a pigeon limb from limb,” she said.

The council’s services committee will now consider the best ways of tackling the problem.