Black vulture population targeted for reduction at Virginia boat launch

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Nearly 75 Black Vultures gather in and around this 30 foot long pen erected of wood and chicken wire baited with deer and beaver carcasses.

A Virginia recreation and fishing boat launch on the James River near the Dominion Virginia Power plant at Dutch Gap is the scene of too many Black Vultures, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries.

In 2002, more than 350 Black vultures were killed at Dutch Gap in an effort to reduce their numbers to a level of a couple dozen birds. But they made a quick come back in the area, and during this past week a hundred of the birds have been disposed of by a shot to their head with a pellet gun.

The USDA reports that both Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), along with their close relatives called the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), are experiencing population increases stretching well over the last 10 years.

The species is increasingly a problem by growing into being a nuisance, as well as a threat to health and safety concerns. The presence of the birds in large numbers, at places they roost, can cause damage to property as they peck and claw at construction surfaces, and cause unsanitary human health conditions from the defecation and regurgitation of the birds. Their presense at landfills, often in near proximity to airports, is a problem for airplanes during take-off and landing.

At the entrance to the Dutch Gap boat launch parking lot, a large yellow warning sign is posted that reads: "Please be aware of possible damage to vehicles and trailers due to the large Black Vulture population currently inhabiting this parking area. Because the Black Vulture is a federally protected species, Chesterfield County is working with the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Inland Games and Fisheries to resolve the problem. You can help by disposing of all litter (even non-food items such as cigarette butts) in trash barrels. Thank you for your cooperation." The vultures reportedly perch on vehicles and scratch the paint, and for some reason are going after windshield wiper blades.

Vultures have shown an ability to adapt to residential and business settings. The bird, with a 4-foot adult wing span, can be seen gliding through the air at virtually any time of day in Chesterfield and Prince George counties in central Virginia.

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