Wimbledon to use hawks, not marksmen, to keep pigeons away

Updated: June 25, 2008, 4:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- The pigeons around the All England Club are safe -- for now.

Wimbledon organizers came under fire from animal rights groups for using marksmen to eradicate some pesky pigeons Sunday, but they have pledged to use only two hawks to keep the birds away for the remainder of the tournament.

Wimbledon organizers said the extreme pest control response had only been deemed necessary because pigeons were creating a health risk around the players' lawn and a restaurant.

"The hawks are our first line of deterrent, and by and large they do the job," Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said Tuesday.

"But unfortunately there were one or two areas where the hawks didn't deter the pigeons, so it was deemed necessary to take a harder approach," he explained.

The decision to call in the marksmen was condemned as "cruel and illegal behavior" by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which complained to the tournament organizers and the police.

"Since the use of marksmen to kill pigeons appears to have been carried out as a first, rather than a last, resort and not out of a concern for public health but rather because the animals were deemed inconvenient by players, you appear to be in clear violation of the law," PETA vice president Bruce Friedrich said.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.