By Debbie Hall
A Stuart resident, plagued by a committee of vultures, is encouraging others similarly affected or impacted to get involved and help find a solution to an ongoing problem.
Murphy Brown, who owns property in Stuart, said the birds are creating havoc in and around several residential properties in Stuart.
“They used to roost in my half acre of woods, but now have decided to roost up at the apartments, just behind the properties on Sunset Drive,” between Brown’s property and another property owner.
Brown estimates half a dozen properties on Sunset Drive suffer from the problems created by the vultures, which also re often called buzzards. Scavengers, the birds feed on the remains of dead animals, but also may be seen perched on dumpsters or other places that may provide and easy meal.
Around her property, “the vultures number up around 100, maybe more, and the number increases every year,” Brown said.
“The waste they create is enormous and has covered the ground and cars at the apartments. They are now roosting right up to the parking area, and are a health risk to the families in the area. They will also kill the vegetation and create a serious health issue,” Brown said.
In addition to the waste they generate – which Brown said covers surrounding areas, she is concerned the birds may prey on small live animals.
“I have seen them on the ground around a house on Sunset Drive with two small Chihuahuas. They are a threat to small animals and have been found to attempt to surround and attack healthy calves being protected by the mother cow,” Brown said.
She suggested the vultures may be forced to relocate to other, less developed areas.
“You would think with all the wilderness they could find a more appropriate area away from development. There are many suitable roosting spots behind Dehart Park, up by the water tower or on Poor House Creek, and they must be forced to find a new roost. I tried to drive them off with an air horn but after the third try, they got wise and returned to their roost knowing they wouldn’t be hurt,” she said, adding that after that, the vultures ignored the air horn.
Historically, vultures were grouped with other raptors, like eagles, hawks, kites, falcons and others, according to the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. That grouping was due to their overall appearance. Often seen soaring high in the sky, they are often mistaken for hawks or eagles, the VDGIF reported.
Raptors are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and cannot be harmed or destroyed.
However, it has recently been determined that the seven species of the so called ‘New World’ vultures, (meaning they rely on smell to find food, while ‘Old World’ vultures depend on sight) are more closely related to storks than to the hawks and eagles with which they were originally grouped, according to the VDGIF.
“Unlike all other raptors, vultures are not birds of prey. They feed solely on carrion, preferring animals that have been dead for two to four days. This explains why they, unlike all other raptors, lack strong, grasping feet and talons. Feeding on carrion has led to a number of other vulture adaptations. Long, broad wings allow for many hours of effortless soaring. The elevated hind toe and blunt talons allow for easier walking. Their bare heads keep otherwise-present feathers from getting dirty and specialized enzymes and bacteria allow them to eat contaminated meat,” the VDGIF reported.
Regardless, “they are damaging property, are repulsive and they need to go,” Brown said, and vowed to contact “every state and federal agency needed” to rid the area of the pesky creatures. She said she was advised to start with local agencies, which then can contact the appropriate agencies to handle the problem.
Meanwhile, Brown is requesting others who are affected or concerned about the vulture invasion to call Dale Owens, game warden, at 692-6978 and/or Stuart Town Manager Terry Tilley at the Town Offices. She also requests that anyone with concerns or feedback to email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.