By Brad Edwards

(CBS) — It’s become Pigeon Gate: the potentially illegal trapping and exporting of Chicago pigeons to Indiana.

CBS 2’s Brad Edwards exposed the practice in a report earlier this week.

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On Thursday, 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman was asked to explain. His office earlier this week confirmed it had allowed a farmer from Indiana to trap pigeons and take them across state lines –- for what, it was never explained.

Reached in person Thursday, Cappleman tried to steer the conversation to other problems in his ward.

“My concerns are about people falling, at $30,000 per lawsuit,” he told a CBS 2 producer at the City Council meeting. “My concerns (are) about the rise in the rat population because they eat pigeon excrement. That’s my story.”

Pressed about the trapping of pigeons, he had this to say before abruptly walking off: “I’ve not hired any trapper. My concern is the retail along the 46th Ward, and I wish it was your concern as well.”

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CBS 2 first learned about the pigeon deportations from Steffeny Smith, a social worker who saw two men shoot a net over 60 to 70 birds in the 4700 block of North Broadway Avenue last week. She said the birds reacted in alarm and thrashed violently under the restraints. Smith said she was told the birds were being transported to Indiana.

An animal-rights group is offering a $1,000 reward to find the trappers. Indiana requires a permit to import and release pigeons in that state, and one hasn’t been approved in a decade.

“We will review the information and pass it along to our law enforcement officers for further investigation,” an Indiana Department of Natural Resources representative  said.

Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, the reward group, says the alderman’s reluctance to answer questions only makes it seem more unseemly. Members say they’d settle for an apology and a promise the practice will cease. They also want Cappleman to assist in a potential criminal probe.

Cappleman has previously proposed a $1,000 fine for feeding pigeons.

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Contributing: CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall

Brad Edwards