James Soules of Decatur faxed a letter to city hall Tuesday morning exercising his option to cancel the remainder of his two-year, $164,000 contract with the city, Mayor Tim Davlin said.

The “bird whisperer” quit before the Springfield City Council could fire him.


James Soules of Decatur faxed a letter to city hall Tuesday morning exercising his option to cancel the remainder of his two-year, $164,000 contract with the city, Mayor Tim Davlin said.


An ordinance terminating Soules’ contract was on the city council’s consent agenda, typically a spot for non-controversial matters. It was approved without discussion.


Ward 8 Alderman Kris Theilen moved the ordinance out of committee last week after Police Chief Ralph Caldwell said there was probable cause to believe Soules had illegally fired a .22-caliber rifle inside the garage across the street from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.


The allegation has been turned over to the Illinois State Police.


Soules denies owning a .22-caliber rifle, but said he had used an air rifle to kill a bird in the garage.


Soules’ no-bid contract to rid downtown Springfield of birds, which ran until April 1, 2009, could be canceled with 30 days’ notice by either the city or Soules. Theilen estimated that less than $40,000 remains to be paid out on the contract.


The octogenarian Soules is renowned for ridding cities of birds with non-lethal methods. He refuses to say how he does it. Some aldermen became suspicious after people who live and work downtown said they had seen Soules or his workers shooting birds.


Soules told aldermen in December that he doesn’t shoot or poison birds, though he may use an air rifle to kill sick ones so they don’t attract other birds.


Now that the contract is canceled, Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman, who represents downtown, said the city should accept bids for bird removal from other companies.


It’s unclear when Soules’ responsibilities under the contract will end because of the 30-day termination clause, Davlin said.


“He beat us to the punch,” the mayor said.


Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523 or chris.wetterich@sj-r.com.