Walnut Cove will be hosting an informational meeting on vultures on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the Walnut Cove Public Library featuring North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Research Curator John Gerwin.
“He is a published authority on birds,” said Town Manager Bobby Miller. “He has been all over the world studying all types of birds of prey. He is the best person in North Carolina who we could find who could speak with authority on the vulture issues we have been having.”
Miller said the meeting will feature a discussion of why vultures may have been attracted to Walnut Cove and how the town can live with them.
“I have sent some information to him about what we are dealing with,” said Miller. “He is going to come up early that day and look at the roosting areas.”
Miller noted the meeting is open to the public and encouraged children to attend to learn more about vultures. He said the town had invited a number of local schools to attend the meeting.
Walnut Cove has been dealing with a large vulture population on its southern boarder for a number of years, but took action to address the issue this fall after the birds started moving into the downtown area and damaging roofs.
“They like water tanks and dead trees and areas of standing water,” said Miller. “There are some really good roosting areas here that fit those descriptions. I think they found out they had a good food source with some of the dumpsters and areas where people would feed domestic animals and leave the food outside.”
The town sent information to all of the downtown business owners asking they make sure they kept their dumpsters closed, and asked residents to make sure there was no food left outside. The town also hung several effigy birds in key roosting areas to help scare the birds away.
“I am ecstatic with the results of the effigy program,” said Miller. “Since we hung those things up in October, the USDA guys said to give them two weeks to recognizes them, I have not seen the first bird on one of these buildings. On the south end of town in the old Mercantile block they occasionally see them there, but I think we have stopped the damage.”
Miller said he was not concerned that the birds were still roosting near the old cement factory.
“We are not going to step in where Mother Nature is and try to derail the ecosystem,” he said. “We just want them to stop damaging the buildings and I think we have stopped that.”
Miller said the town had applied for and been granted a permit to “take” several birds each year to use as new effigies, but noted that he hoped that would not be necessary.
“I don’t think we ought to be in the business of shooting buzzards,” he said. “We are going to try everything else. We do have the permit to take them to use as effigy birds, but we have no plans to do that. We think we can control them otherwise.”
Miller noted that as part of the permit process the town agreed to try other measures.
“We told them we would try to do noise harassment,” he said. “And some of the guys did motion detectors where they would spray them with water on the roofs. I also told them we would do an educational thing. We want to educate the people.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.