Commissioners' Corner Blog

Apr 05

[ARCHIVED] Concerns Over Annual Vulture Visit

The original item was published from April 5, 2017 7:52 AM to April 5, 2017 7:53 AM

Like a dark cloud, huge numbers of giant black birds mass nearby, circling overhead, creating an apocalyptic atmosphere in the small community. Mothers are horrified when they see the jungle gym engulfed by them, and warn others to evacuate the children. As darkness encroaches on the daylight, hundreds of these giant scavengers find their secure perches aloft, where they hiss and defecate until they are released from their perches by the sunrise.

Albeit reminiscent of a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, this is a real and growing concern for many Poolesville residents who have been invaded annually by over 200 hundred vultures, taking up residence in backyards, trees and on roofs. These vultures, have taken over the center portion of Poolesville – stripping bark off trees, eating rubber off roofs, cars, hot tub, pool and boat covers and destroying grills. Lawn furniture tends to be a favorite treat as well and their excrement is acidic – enough to eat the paint off cars. (Vultures have highly acidic stomach liquids and urine which helps in their role as scavengers but contributes to the damage they can cause, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

Furthermore, the USDA advises that vultures are federally-protected migratory birds that play an important role in the environment. "Increasing and expanding populations may be associated with problems, including agricultural and property damage, and health and safety concerns". Integrated solutions to address problems may include habitat manipulation, dispersal techniques, and population management.

Recent discussions at Town meetings has prompted the Commissioners to investigate solutions. Looking to Leesburg's experience, who has been dealing with the same issue, we learned that they contracted with the Virginia branch of the USDA Wildlife and Management Control Division. The USDA successfully teamed with the local police department to harass the vultures with "bird bangers" and lasers daily for a two week period.

Unlike Virginia, the Maryland branch does not have the resources to offer this type of program. However, they do advise that the Town could engage, educate and arm a volunteer group to employ dispersal techniques.  This solution would most likely be a multi-year occurrence and would require the permission of the several property owners. In addition to the dispersal techniques, removal of food sources is critical. Keeping residential trash bags in enclosed containers, avoid leaving uneaten pet foods outdoors, and ensuring commercial dumpsters have lids/covers will be paramount to the success of the endeavor.

The Commissioners will be discussing this issue at future meetings and of course, public input is always encouraged.