Loudoun Group Decries Leesburg Vulture Control

Various measures will be undertaken in an attempt to move the birds; Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy say population swell is part of the birds' natural rhythm.

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 late Monday morning 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 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.

Related Content:

Officials Plan to Move Vultures from Leesburg

What's the Noise You Hear in Leesburg?

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Greg January 07, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Auburn University provides some additional detail regarding the dangers of vulture droppings: http://www.aces.edu/forestry/awdm/birds/vultures.php "Vulture droppings are also unsightly and smell unpleasant. They may be loaded with fungus and parasites that carry histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis and other diseases."
Linda Shotton January 07, 2013 at 11:14 PM
We should all be very happy that we have carrion eaters clearing our county of decaying carcasses. That said, however, I do not think that the town proper of Leesburg is rife with said carcasses. Pretty much when an animal dies in my back yard (thanks in part to my jack russell terriers), I gather the remains, wrap in plastic, and hope the CSI guys have a cold when they come to get my fragrant trash. Turkey Buzzards are an essential part of our rural landscape. They are not, however a boon to our neighborhoods. What the police and animal control experts will be doing is making Leesburg an inhospitable location for roosting. No birds will be harmed by lights and firecrackers. They will choose to roost in a more quiet environment - likely where there are tall trees and open nearby fields. Their droppings can oxygenate a forest floor vs the hoods of our neighbor's cars.
LeRoy Flanders Hughes January 08, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Okay, lemme get this straight: someone actually thought that hanging dead birds in trees will scare away carrion eaters otherwise known as vultures? Or are they just trying to give them a buffet? And regardless of how well you hang those dead birds, between the wind, the vulture's efforts to get at the hanging carrion, and simple decay will cause those dead rotting birds to drop to the ground - after emitting a horrific stench. And before you say, it's only a smell, you may want to do a search on what a smell is made up of: little particles of the actual object emitting the odor so when you smell apple pie, you are actually breathing in apple pie and when you smell dead bird..... And why not just send some city employees out with paint guns filled with water soluble paint. A little pop pop on the tail feathers and Mr. Vulture says goodbye and the water soluble paint is when the paint ball hits a car, building, or street.
G Rober January 08, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Vultures have no place being in my relative's backyard in Leesburg. They come by the hundreds every day and leave an unmanageable mess. They have not been able to have a garden in their backyard or use their yard for any family activities due to white feces everywhere. I was there this afternoon as the USDA began their work. The pyrotechnics used scattered the birds and they moved to Leesburg Elementary School area only to return and were faced with more pyrotechnics. This went on for a few times and finally the vultures were last seen heading north out of Leesburg to a more rural area. To all the buzzard lovers-this strategy is working so far and I am glad the USDA will return all week. And at least the trees aren't being cut down to eliminate the birds and thereby reducing the tree canopy in Leesburg.
Mary Quigley January 19, 2013 at 02:38 PM
There are currently at least a dozen in my Centreville backyard, and i have never seen them here before!


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