Navy fi­nally shoos vul­tures away from their Lex­ing­ton Park roosts

Birds posed col­li­sion threat to Pax air­craft

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Ja­sonEn­tNews

It took some ef­fort, but the Navy was fi­nally able to shoo away the hun­dreds of black vul­tures that were liv­ing near Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion.

There were about 200 to 300 of the scav­engers liv­ing in down­town Lex­ing­ton Park, pos­ing a col­li­sion risk to air­craft at the Navy base. The black vul­tures were also tear­ing up the roofs at the Lex­ing­ton Park li­brary and Lex­ing­ton Park Ele­men­tary School and leav­ing fe­ces on the ground, Com­mis­sioner Todd Mor­gan (R) said at a joint meet­ing with Navy of­fi­cials on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of dam­age be­ing done out­side of the gate” by the vul­tures, he said.

The vul­tures were hang­ing around Lex­ing­ton Park be­cause they had an easy food sup­ply out of neigh­bor­ing busi­nesses’ dump­sters, and had cover to sleep in at night in a stand of trees, said Grant Harter, wildlife bi­ol­o­gist with the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

The St. Mary’s County Health De­part­ment as­sisted by reach­ing out to lo­cal busi­nesses to keep their dump­sters closed to cut off the easy sup­ply of vit­tles for the birds.

“That helped out im­mensely,” Harter said.

But the vul­tures were hang­ing around.

The next step was “habi­tat man­age­ment,” Harter said. The Navy rec­om­mended that the St. Mary’s County Hous­ing Author­ity take down the trees next to the Lex­ing­ton Park li­brary on 3 acres of prop­erty that it owns on South Shangri-La Drive.

Those trees came down in still March, and “the ma­jor­ity of those birds left,” Harter said.

But there were still about 50 vul­tures still in the area, Harter said.

Mor­gan noted in June, “There’s an old say­ing: No good deed goes un­pun­ished. The trees are gone. The buz­zards are back.”

The com­mis­sion­ers also heard con­cerns about the prop­erty from neigh­bors. “We cut the trees down, but didn’t clean the trees up. So we scorched the land­scape. Stumps, trees — ev­ery­thing’s lay­ing on the ground,” Mor­gan said in June.

To deal with the re­main­ing buz­zards, Harter and staff ha­rassed the birds in the first week of Au­gust. For eight days straight, first thing in the morn­ing, “we ag­gres­sively shot py­rotech­nics at them,” Harter said, and hung up 10 vul­ture ef­fi­gies in Lex­ing­ton Park to fur­ther scare the birds away.

By Aug. 14, most of the vul­tures were gone. “For the most part, we’re not see­ing any,” Harter said.

Some par­ents who use the gym­nas­tics cen­ter at Mil­li­son Plaza com­plained to the county com­mis­sion­ers about the bird ef­fi­gies hang­ing from the light posts, but Mor­gan said it was an ef­fec­tive away of get­ting rid of the birds.

The co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the Navy and St. Mary’s County gov­ern­ment was excellent, he said. “I think it’s been ex­tra­or­di­nary and hope­fully the vul­tures are gone,” he said.

“I’m glad we were able to solve the prob­lem,” Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Randy Guy (R) said.

If the vul­tures hadn’t moved off, Pax River NAS had a per­mit to de­stroy the birds.

“We solved the issue, but we left an eye­sore,” Com­mis­sioner Tom Jar­boe (R) said, next to the Lex­ing­ton Park li­brary.

The downed trees at the hous­ing author­ity prop­erty could be eas­ily re­moved by the county’s pub­lic works de­part­ment, Com­mis­sioner John O’Connor (R) said.

STAFF PHOTO BY JA­SON BAB­COCK

A few vul­ture ef­fi­gies re­main hang­ing in Mil­li­son Plaza in Lex­ing­ton Park to scare away the black vul­tures that were liv­ing in the area.

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