Midway through the Town of Leesburg and United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services' week-long vulture displacement initiative — which is using pyrotechnics and lasers in an attempt to move the birds from their roost downtown — one Leesburg Town Council member is speaking out against the practice, saying it should only be done if the birds are not killed.
Marty Martinez said at a council meeting this week the town has received at least 84 emails from residents, "who would rather save the vultures than hurt them."
“I do not advocate any lethal uses to remove the vultures and will do what I can to ensure that non-lethal and no lasers are used to remove the vultures,” he said. “Even though they are a nuisance to some neighborhoods, I believe they should be protected.”
Martinez asked the town to have the USDA remove the birds by non-lethal means only, and also discontinue the use of lasers.
His comments echo those of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy earlier this week, which called the practice — along with what town officials called a last resort option to kill and hang birds from trees in the area — "barbaric."
Leesburg Police Department spokesman Lt. Jeff Dube said officials have dealt with vulture issues before, but have not seen a problem this large since 2007, when they had to manage the population.
This time, up to 200 birds have made the area of Mayfair Drive NE and Plaza Street NE home. Not only do the creatures cause property damage — picking away at rooftops and rubber seals and defecating on buildings, yards, and vehicles — but they're also a health concern.
Martinez, echoing criticism of the practice by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy earlier this week, said vultures are a critical part Leesburg's ecosystem — and the numbers will naturally fall with warmer weather, when the birds will migrate elsewhere.
“We welcome the opportunity to help the community build an understanding of vultures and the critical roles they play in our ecosystem,” Martinez said. “It also should be recognized that many communities actually celebrate vultures.”
Officials say relocating the roost will benefit both residents and vultures in the long term.
The effort is scheduled to continue through Friday.
Karen Graham contributed reporting for this story.
Officials Plan to Move Vultures from Leesburg
Loudoun Group Decries Leesburg Vulture Control
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