Navy finally shoos vultures away from their Lexington Park roosts
Birds posed collision threat to Pax aircraft
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.
A few vulture effigies remain hanging in Millison Plaza in Lexington Park to scare away the black vultures that were living in the area.