Visitors to Walnut Cove can find some great food, friendly people and unique shopping experiences, but first they have to get past the 100s of vultures circling the town’s southern gateway.
That is a problem Town Manager Bobby Miller hopes to soon fix.
“We are taking a two angled approach to these things,” he said. “We want to make sure the public is knowledgeable about some of the things that cause vultures to hang around and the first thing is food sources.
“We are sending a letter out to all of the businesses, telling them to make sure they keep their dumpsters closed,” he said. “Any food or produce needs to be discarded in a way that the vultures are not going to be able to access it. Some merchants put out food for cats and we are asking that they stop doing that to eliminate the food source. These buzzards will eat just about anything. We sent a mailing out to all of the businesses, but we want to communicate that to the residents as well.”
Miller said the town is also contracting with the USDA to try to scare the vultures out of the town by hanging vulture carcasses in key roosting areas. The first carcasses were hung last week.
“It is going to cost a little bit of money, but I think it is a good investment for economic development if we can move these birds to another jurisdiction,” said Miller, who estimates that there could be over 1,000 vultures in the Walnut Cove area. “The USDA, for $330, will bring up the dead vultures and hang them. They apparently last a long time and the birds respect there is dead comrade in the area and disperse. We will see if it works or not.”
Miller said the town was in the process of applying for a permit which would allow the town to “take” some of the vultures in the area to use as future effigy birds.
“We don’t want to get into the business of buzzard killers, but if this works then we will have a federally issued permit to continue the program,” said Miller. “We have no shortage of volunteers to try and take some of these. We are still working out how we will set up the taking process, but they would have to be taken with a shotgun fired from the shoulder. We would catalog the birds and dispose of them humanely.”
Miller noted that the town could not just kill the existing vulture flock because the birds are federally protected.
“They fall under the same migratory bird act as many other birds,” said Miller. “The most common is the black vulture but you also have turkey vultures. We have both species here. They sleep at night and then come out in the day and feed and go back home. Right now their home seems to be the old cement plant.”
He said that in addition to being unsightly, the birds have started to move further into town in recent months and have started to cause damage to several roofs in the area.
He said officials with the USDA had been astounded to see how many birds were in he Walnut Cove area.
Miller noted that while he hopes the effigy program will be successful in scaring the birds away from their existing roosting location, he also needs the town residents to help by eliminating food sources that could attract them.
“A lot of it is common sense,” said Miller. “Dumpsters need to be closed. All food items need to be inside and out of reach form the vultures. These birds have the most keen sense of smell. They can smell a food source from 100 miles away.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.