To some, the vultures claiming Dutch Gap as their rest and roost area are a nuisance. To others, the protected birds are a treasurer....

To some, the vultures claiming Dutch Gap as their rest and roost area are a nuisance. To others, the protected birds are a treasurer. They have been a source of controversy for years.

Chesterfield County renewed a contract on July 1 with USDA Wildlife Division that allows for the monitoring, harassing and – if the county deems it necessary – even euthanasia of the birds.

The two species of vultures that have called Dutch Gap home for decades are the black and turkey vultures. Vultures are not predators; they are scavengers and feed on carrion. The Dutch Gap area offers fish scraps on the rocky river banks tossed by fishermen and the rocky banks are an ideal nesting rookery for the birds. These are a big attraction for them.

The vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, and a permit must be obtained before the birds can be killed.

Since 2000, the USDA has trapped and killed 1,280 of the protected species at Dutch Gap, according to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The cost of the operation has totaled $118,616.90, with the money to finance the operation and monitoring coming from the county parks and recreation budget, according to Chesterfield Public Affairs and Chesterfield Parks and Recreation.

The decision to trap and euthanize the vultures is a joint partnership between Chesterfield Parks and Recreation, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and USDA Wildlife Division.

For the birds who are known as nature’s clean-up crew, their fate is not out of the woods yet.