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Officials: Vulture Control in Leesburg a 'Success'

After week-long initiative to remove birds from downtown in which no birds were killed, they appear to be gone. Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy asks for non-harmful methods, continued public education of vultures.

After a week of vigilant patrolling and several control tactics — among them, pyrotechnics — by the United States Department of Agriculture and Leesburg Police, the 200 vultures roosting in downtown Leesburg appear to be gone. For now.

USDA officials have been working with police all week using a variety of tactics
to displace about 200 vultures roosting in the neighborhood around Mayfair and Plaza streets NE.

From 4 to 5 p.m. each day, officials deployed measures, including pyrotechnics, in an effort to remove the birds, who were causing property damage — picking away at rooftops and rubber seals, and defecating on buildings, yards and vehicles — and also health concerns.

As of Friday afternoon, Dube reported the vultures had left the Northeast section, but the USDA was planning to check out areas where they had been seen around Morven Park Road NW.

"We are very pleased with the progress, it has been successful," Leesburg Police Department spokesman Lt. Jeffrey Dube said.

USDA officials have been monitoring some additional areas including Queen Street and Leesburg Elementary School at sunset, when the birds normally settle in for the evening.

"The techniques definitely seem to be working. Monday evening there were 
between 200 and 250 birds in this area and now there are just a few around," Dube added.

On Wednesday, Patch visited the area in Leesburg around Mayfair Street and 
Plaza Street NE and found most of the birds gone. All that remained was an effigy of a dead vulture hanging in a tree, a method used to keep the birds from returning to the area. No birds were killed during the removal exercises.

After learning from reports that birds could be killed and and left hanging in trees as a deterrent to other vultures, Leesburg Council Member Marty Martinez spoke out against killing vultures this week at a town council meeting, asking the town to have the USDA remove the birds by non-lethal means only and also discontinue the use of lasers.

“Even though they are a nuisance to some neighborhoods, I believe they should be protected," Martinez said.

The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, which earlier this week also spoke out against certain tactics used to move the vultures, sent a letter Friday to the Mayor and Town Council of Leesburg asking future efforts to move the birds not include killing them.

"We ask that you ensure that in the cases where you contract with the USDA Wildlife Services for support, that they do not use dead birds or the killing of birds as part of their dispersion approach," the letter says. "Furthermore, we welcome the opportunity to work with you and Loudoun County Animal Control on public outreach and education around the life cycles and behaviors of vultures to build awareness for these animals and to avoid future human/wildlife conflicts."

Nicole Hamilton, president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy said, she would also like to identify "a point of contact with whom we can start working and developing more positive solutions."

Dube said Wednesday the main goal was just to get the birds "to move to a more rural area."

"We cannot predict where the vultures will go or if they do come back, but we are hopeful that tonight is the last night," Dube said.

See also:

Officials Plan to Move Vultures from Leesburg

Loudoun Group Decries Leesburg Vulture Control

Leesburg Council Member Opposes Vulture Tactics

What's the Noise you Hear in Leesburg?

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[Correction: Lasers were not used during this past week. Also, a dead vulture was not left hanging a tree; an effigy was used, according to Leesburg Police.]

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