This is the second installment in a series regarding the mess that flocks of birds are making on the East Depot side of the public square. Diagnosed with histoplasmosis last year, a lung disease known to be associated with bird droppings, Pam Birtcil's doctor suggested that she stay away from large flocks of birds and their debris. ...
This is the second installment in a series regarding the mess that flocks of birds are making on the East Depot side of the public square.
Diagnosed with histoplasmosis last year, a lung disease known to be associated with bird droppings, Pam Birtcil's doctor suggested that she stay away from large flocks of birds and their debris. That's a little difficult for the Bedford Builds Habitat for Humanity executive director as white bird poop currently covers her business sidewalks, windows and vehicles on East Depot Street off the Shelbyville square.
She continues to work, despite diminished lung capacity, at the non-profit which assists families in building their own homes. The white company truck with its green and black lettering is currently splattered with white bird poop, as are the outside windows and sidewalk.
As for what can be done about the vultures and other birds making a permanent roost in the cell tower adjacent to the Habitat Store, Brett G. Dunlap, a Tennessee and Kentucky wildlife biologist, says there are solutions.
Dunlap says the most humane thing to do to rid the city of the birds is a "combination of a non-lethal harassment (pyrotechnics, lasers and effigies) coupled with potential habitat manipulation.
An effigy is a dead or fake dead animal that is hung in an area to deter that specific species from congregating in unwanted areas. Effigies, according to wildlife officials, are extremely effective at deterring black vultures from using an area, that is, if displayed properly and hung high enough to be seen from a distance.
When trying to rid an area of flocks like this one, which sometimes numbers in the hundreds, Dunlap says of course first make sure any area road kill is removed from the surrounding area. It's a bird's world and we have to find reasonable solutions while living in it, the wildlife expert says.
As to why the huge bird flocks have chosen Shelbyville sidewalks, Dunlap says, "Difficult to say with certainty. Vultures are very common in Tennessee. They routinely utilize towers for loafing and roosting structures."
Dunlap says this type of bird overpopulation issue, while equally an important one, is actually quite common in the state. Such bird problems as Shelbyville's, he says, are generally addressed through his office - the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services - with a combination of methods, sometimes reinforced with lethal removal through yes, shooting.
"We can provide technical assistance or direct operational assistance. Meaning, we can provide information and assist the property owner in implementing mitigation measures themselves or we can provide staff to conduct the operations. We can also assist the property owner in obtaining a USFWS depredation permit that allows for limited lethal removal of some of the flock."
A federal depredation permit authorizes residents to capture or kill birds to reduce damage caused by birds or to protect other interests such as human health and safety or personal property.
Shelbyville Public Works Director Buck Vallad said recently that he's currently working with the cell tower owners Crown Castle about the messy situation. He believes the company will have some mitigation completed within a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, Dunlap points out several precautions to business owners who are literally pooped out over this issue. "The birds [vultures] are protected. A USFWS Federal Depredation permit is required in order to use lethal methods. Non-lethal harassment, coupled with lethal reinforcement through shooting, is typically utilized in these situations. Using vulture effigies is extremely effective. The key to non-lethal harassment is persistence and utilizing multiple methods."
Clarabell Collectibles business owner Kevin Gunter said recently that the birds seem to be an ongoing problem, though the city has kindly pressure-washed sidewalks. Gunter says he's even seeing the large birds rousing out in the county where he lives.
He and Birtcil, right across the street from his store, hope there's a solution soon, especially before customers make an about face and stop walking the sidewalks by the businesses on East Depot. Birtcil says she's already witnessed people turning around before they get to the Habitat building.
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