London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Richmond upon Thames 1971

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Richmond]

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into summer their store of food gets shorter and then they begin to feed on bulbs, birds'
eggs and shoots and stems of trees. As the autumn approaches they continue foraging
for stores for their winter supply thus completing a year's cycle of much destruction to
natural plant life. Although such damage causes concern, the main problem arises when
they establish themselves in houses, generally in roof spaces. When this occurs they cause
damage to external woodwork, roof timbers, lagging of water pipes, and, it is known
that, in some instances, they cause damage even to the water pipes resulting in extensive
dampness and possible internal flooding in the house.
Despite the annoyance and damage caused by the grey squirrel the department has
no statutory powers or obligation to deal with infestations but whenever complaints are
received investigations are carried out and the most apropriate advice is given.
Feral Pigeons
The control of feral pigeons in built-up areas is becoming more difficult and indeed
more costly. Although it is known that they tend to establish themselves on bridges, the
roofs, alcoves and ledges of large buildings in town centres there are now many instances
where they settle down as isolated flocks on private dwellings. It is generally found that
they are initially attracted by one or more persons in the area placing food for the feeding
of smaller birds but by doing this they entice pigeons. Except in the most adverse winter
conditions there are ample supplies of natural food available for birds to enable them to
survive and the practice of feeding them is quite unnecessary. No powers are available
to prevent people from feeding birds and requests to people to discontinue the feeding
of birds generally incurs their wrath rather than their co-operation.
The Public Health Act, 1961 gives permissive but not obligatory power to a Local
Authority to deal with pigeons where a serious nuisance exists. Trapping by baiting and
destruction by humane means is the most efficient method of control but unless there are
appropriate trapping sites in an affected area and no other immediate sources of food
supply are available the cost of carrying out an isolated operation is uneconomical and
not worth while.
Because of serious nuisance being caused in four areas in the Borough it was necessary
for the Council to take action. A specialist firm was engaged, and 378 pigeons were
trapped and humanely destroyed.
Wasps Nests
During the months of July to October 501 requests were received from residents in
the Borough requiring advice or help regarding the destruction of wasps' nests. This was
a slight reduction from the similar period in the previous year when 588 requests were
received. Advice was given where necessary but when complainants requested the nests
to be destroyed, arrangements were made for two private contractors in the Borough to
carry out the work of destruction where possible, for which they charged a reasonable
fee to the complainant.
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