Like something out of a Hitchcock film, the black birds menacing Jasper’s Piney Woods neighborhood for months may have finally met their match in Animal Control Officer Lonnie Waters.
“I’ve been working all month on the buzzards at Piney Woods,” Waters told city council members Monday night at the council’s first meeting of 2011. “We’re gaining ground though. It’s been nearly six days since we had one buzzard light out in a tree at Piney Woods.”
Waters said the birds, whose numbers have reached up to 200 at times, are black buzzards and turkey buzzards and are a federally protected species. Working with the federal wildlife service, Waters gained permission to kill a maximum of 10 birds to deter the rest from roosting in town.
“I shot and killed one vulture and hung it up in a tree pretty close to where they roost. They left for a couple of days. I went out and hung a second vulture up closer to where they were roosting and now they’ve been gone for six days. I don’t know where they’ve gone.”
Waters said the birds are a health hazard and city officials are taking serious notice.
“They are very nasty birds. They do have a lot of waste and discharge around these homes. It’s something that had to be taken care of,” he said.
Per federal regulations, Waters must maintain records of the buzzard kill for five years and, he said, even has to shoot the birds with non-toxic shells.
“These shells are like $3 a shell. It’s different from a regular shell because it has no lead in it. The government requires us to do that because there’s some shot out of a shotgun shell that doesn’t hit the birds, and the federal government doesn’t want that lead shot laying around.”
According to Waters, the birds were probably uprooted from their original roost when someone cleared some property, disturbing their habitat and forcing them to move into Piney Woods. Waters said they like a pine thicket where morning sun reaches them.
“That’s how they choose a place. They look for those things, and they choose a place that’s got a food aspect. I’ve got a real education on these birds,” Waters said.