Pigeon racers are concerned that a spate of thefts could wipe out the sport in West Dunbartonshire.
Between June 10 and June 16, 38 birds were stolen or released from lofts in Dumbarton and the Vale in three separate incidents – sparking worries in the local pigeon keeping community.
And one of those to be targeted, Walter Spence from Dumbarton, revealed that a second raid would be enough to see him give up the sport.
Walter’s loft in Millburn Crescent was broken into overnight between Saturday June 13 and Sunday June 14, however all that was stolen was a 30kg bag of feed.
He said: “They didn’t take anything else.
“There was other stuff there; tools, medicine, but they didn’t touch any of it. They pulled the door off and just stole the feed.
“They broke into the allotment next door to mine and let all the birds out, those were birds that were meant for breeding and hadn’t been out before either so they’re now gone.
“It’s upsetting. You spend a lot of time with them. I’m retired and I’m never normally in the house because I’ll be out with the birds.
“I’m now thinking of giving it up at the end of the year. If this happens again, then I’m done.
“There’s another guy next to me who has his dad’s birds and he wasn’t broken into thankfully. If he was then he’d be done with it as well. He’s kept it going in memory of his dad.
“We’re all worried that it will happen again.”
Alistair Burns was less fortunate than Walter, as he discovered that seven of his birds had been taken from their loft in Alexander Street, Alexandria – and he described the theft as “soul destroying”.
He told the Lennox: “I came down and found that the doors had been pulled off the hinges and birds taken, so I wasn’t sure if it was just kids breaking in or what.
“Nobody normally steals pigeons.
“They were all good birds, some of the ones that were taken I had been given – and a few I had bought. They hold a value to you.
“I got pigeons from a guy who was 80 odds when he chucked it.
“The breeding goes back 50 years. “For someone to come along and help themselves to them is just not on, especially not amongst pigeon men.
“If it was someone looking to start getting involved in racing then everyone would be happy to help them get started. It’s a sport that’s dying, we’re trying to encourage youngsters to get involved.
“To have this happen is just soul destroying.”
Alan Jones, who lives in Dumbarton and is president of the Glasgow and District Federation of Pigeon Racing Clubs, meanwhile believes that whoever is responsible is aiming to breed the birds – which are essentially worthless due to their registration tags.
He said: “There isn’t really a black market.
“Pigeons have identification rings on them that are specific to that pigeon only, and the records of those numbers are heard by the unions.
“If you stole a pigeon and it had a specific number on it and you tried to sell it to someone else then that pigeon would be traceable, they’d literally be useless.
“A lot of the pigeons stolen have been taken from stock sections.
“If you go into the pigeon lofts then a lot of the guys have a stock section and that’s the birds they keep for breeding.
“You’ll have them separate from your racing pigeons which are going in and out every day.
“They would come home if someone let them out in the locality.
“If they did happen to escape then they’d be left to the predators.
“The perrigan and sparrowhawk population in this area is out of control, so any pigeons left out and about for too long are going to succumb to that.”
And Alan is now hopeful that anyone with any information on the thefts will come forward, with years of hard work potentially being lost for local breeders.
He added: “There are pigeons that people could have got from family members or friends who have since passed away.
“This can be a lifetime’s work and people are just going in and stealing them.
“Somebody could’ve been in the sport breeding birds for 40 years, and that’s them back to day dot again.”
Anyone with any information that could assist with the investigation can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be maintained.