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Report: Fla. ‘Chicken Catcher’ Quits Post

August 2, 2004

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) _ The man hired to rid this resort city of its prolific and unabashed chickens quit his post, saying city leaders were not committed to the cause.

In January, Key West officials agreed to pay Armando Parra Sr. $20 for each nuisance chicken he caught until Sept. 30. His limit was 900 birds.

Parra, a barber and self-taught bird catcher, had rounded up 542 chickens, a quarter of the estimated population roaming about in the city. But, on July 23, Parra turned in his city-issued traps and said he was going freelance.

``I just thought it was a better idea if I went out on my own,″ he said.

Parra said the city issued ``chicken lists″ telling him which poultry to capture. He said the birds’ wanderings made his job impossible.

``You either catch them or you don’t,″ Parra said. ``This thing about getting designated chickens in designated areas, that’s impossible.″

Many residents consider the birds a nuisance, but others stomped on Parra’s traps and taunted him on his rounds. A chicken rotisserie was left in one cage.

Parra, 64, said his nerves were frayed. He left town for 11 days because he ``couldn’t take it anymore.″

The fowl flap drew national attention, which may have backfired on those who wanted the birds off the streets.

``They have become like a mascot. They are a symbol of Key West now,″ said Katha Sheehan, owner of The Chicken Store, which sells fowl-related paraphernalia.

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