Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, in response to the Town of Leesburg’s plans for vulture control, is criticizing plans to help relocate the birds, who they say play a “critical role as scavengers and sanitarians”, helping to recycle dead animals and sanitize the area.
The LWC’s comments come after Leesburg released a statement saying beginning today, Monday, and continuing throughout the week, "officials will use pyrotechnics, lasers, and other dispersal devices that are noise and light makers to move the birds nightly just prior to dark."
In addition to the pyrotechnics, lasers and other noise devices that will be used to move the birds, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture also may kill and hang dead birds in trees as a means of deterring birds, according to Leesburg Police Department spokesman Lt. Jeff Dube.
Town spokeswoman Betsy Fields said this week that birds would only be killed as a last resort.
“They say it scares the birds away but from what we have researched, it does not. It’s absolutely barbaric. The birds do move on and disperse on their own towards the end of winter,” said Nicole Hamilton, president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.
Dube said the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service Program, along with the Leesburg Police Department, will begin the removal process between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday, continuing every day this week.
The area includes Mayfair Drive NE and Plaza Street NE.
The USDA was called in to handle the project because vultures are a protected wildlife species.
Dube said officials have dealt with the issue before, but have not seen a vulture problem this large since 2007, when they had to manage the population.
They are currently estimating the number of vultures to be between 200 and 250 in one area of Leesburg.
“The vultures are destructive, they can strip a tree, break branches, destroy property. Their urine has a high acidity that will remove paint,” Dube said. “The high amount of birds involved is a health hazard and creates a bad smell which will last until spring."
But, the LWC strongly disagrees with the tactics being used in Leesburg and is hoping to educate the public on the role vultures play in the environment.
“Vulture numbers swell every year from late fall to early spring. It’s part of their natural rhythm,” Hamilton said.