Remember Elektra, the hawk used to scare the
pigeons in Trafalgar Square? Well it seems the
cost of keeping the flying "verminator" is rising
more and more per year with the current
figure standing at nearly £60 000!

The bird of prey is flown daily for up to four hours
as part of efforts introduced by former mayor
Ken Livingstone to disperse birds he
dubbed "flying rats".

Since the scheme started in July 2003, a total of £354,829
has been spent on hawks and 130 pigeons have been
killed. This equates to £2,729 spent per dead bird.

Figures released on Monday show that in the
last financial year the scheme cost £59,020.

Mike Tuffrey, leader of the Liberal Democrat London
Assembly Group
, said: "Alternative ways must be
found, such as nesting prevention and chemical
contraception in feed. Most Londoners will
certainly welcome the reduced nuisance
but the Mayor must find a far more
cost-effective way to tackle the problem."

Feral pigeon numbers have dropped from
about 4,000 to the present 120 to 140.

Julia Fletcher, of the Pigeon Action Group, which campaigns
for the birds' welfare, said: "They're performing blood
sports with taxpayers money. It's totally unnecessary,
not only because of the costs but because it's not
going to drive the pigeons away."

Numbers had fallen, she argued, because they had
been "starved out of existence" after feeding
them in the square was banned.

She also said a hawk does not prevent the pigeons
returning, because the birds are creatures of
habit and always return home.

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