Gerber: A week for the birds

Gerber: A week for the birds

July 14th, 2013 by Alison Gerber in Opinion Columns

Last week, a runaway oil train in Canada killed 50 people. Egypt ousted then imprisoned its president, triggering days of bloody unrest. Rain left South Pittsburg caked in mud.

So what did Times Free Press readers want to talk about the most? Birds. Specifically, the sandhill cranes, geese and chickens that many think were not being treated fairly.

Stories in the newspaper included:

• The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering allowing people to hunt sandhill cranes. However, the Hiawasee Wildlife Refuge, home to the annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival, would be off limits to hunting.

• The trendy urban chick movement was dealt a blow when the Chattanooga City Council defeated an ordinance that would have allowed chickens within the city limits.

• About 100 geese once living on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College met their maker when the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program killed them. School officials had asked the USDA to remove the Canada geese because they were obstructing cars and being a nuisance to people. On top of that, their 50 to 100 pounds of droppings a day were a health hazard.

When it comes to birds, Times Free Press readers have a lot of opinions. Here's a sampling of reader feedback on the stories:

Why is it OK to have cats and dogs and even ferrets but not chickens?

If the city allows chickens, goats and donkeys won't be far behind.

One reader referred to Chatt State officials as goose killers although school President Jim Catanzaro said he was told the USDA would take the geese to a preserve in West Tennessee.

As for the sandhill cranes, both pro-hunting and anti-hunting readers sounded off. One man offered me a recipe for sandhill crane that he described as "not that bad."

Others stood with the cranes. "If it was up to men, everything would be dead," someone wrote on Facebook.

In the grand picture, are these animal stories the most important things going on last week? Nope. But they got people talking. Stories about anything with feathers, fur or fins do surprisingly well on our website and we got lots of positive feedback.

The lesson is that stories about animals touch many people in a deep way and provoke them to write or call us.

Some just love their animals -- others just love the taste of them.

Alison Gerber is editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at agerber@timesfree