Update: Vultures Up in the Air – Tab hits $118,000

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A deer carcass laid in a ditch beside Chester Road on Friday. Several large birds resembling eagles circled the site and slowly began to land, they surrounded the carrion and began to feast, and the vulture clean-up crew had arrived.

In Chesterfield County, in the deer carcass scenario, there doesn’t appear to be any problem and very few complaints about vultures showing up. However, in other areas of the county such as Dutch Gap Boat Landing, vultures showing up have become a very big deal. A deal to the tune of $118,616.90 to date, to rid the landing of the birds.

Ironically, the Dutch Gap boat landing area is adjacent to Henricus Historical Park and the Conservation Area, where not only vultures can be found, but Bald Eagles, hawks, songbirds and other avian species.

Black and Turkey Vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Act and permits must be obtained before they can be trapped and killed.

The efforts to rid the boat landing of vultures has been a partnership between Chesterfield Parks and Rec, United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (USDA) and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF).

“We [county]have a contract with USDA to monitor and act on the situation,” said Phil Innis of Chesterfield Parks and Rec. “Each year the situation is looked at. The current contract is due to expire in June.”

Innis said the county is billed for any services performed at the site, such as the efforts to disperse the birds with propane cannons, pyrotechnics, etc., as well as trapping and euthanizing the vultures.

“The funds to pay USDA come from Parks and Recreation,” said Innis. “A basic contract is signed, the situation monitored and the contract modified if needed.”

USDA has been under contract with the county since 2000, when they first became involved with the Dutch Gap Vultures.

USDA was contacted for comment and asked if another round of trapping and euthanasia was planned, but Scott Barris, State Director for Wildlife Services, said he couldn’t comment without approval of the USDA Public Affairs. Because of the holiday, the USDA was unable to comment by press time.

Dutch Gap Vultures euthanized 1,280 since 2000. In addition to the birds that have been killed, 120 vultures have been tagged. Only three of the tagged birds have returned to Dutch Gap.

Vultures eat dead animals and are scavengers not predators. But visitors to the Dutch Gap boat landing have complained that the vultures play havoc with their vehicles, picking at black window seals on parked cars.

Visitors to Dutch Gap in early March would have witnessed vultures being observed eating discarded catfish at the boat dock area. Trash can be seen strewn about the area in spite of numerous trash receptacles available, the trash along with the fish scraps are a strong attractant to the area for the birds.

Innis explained that in January and February, for example, very few complaints are made, but from about mid to late summer the complaints increase.

The decision to trap and euthanize the vultures is a joint partnership between Chesterfield Parks and Recreation, DGIF and USDA, Innis said. There doesn’t have to be a certain amount of vultures present for a euthanasia decision, it is also based on complaints, said Innis.

For now the fate of the Dutch Gap vultures is up in the air.

“It’s a troublesome situation, trying to balance the needs of wildlife and boaters,” Innes said.

Per Chesterfield County Public Affairs, Dave Goode, the county has paid to USDA:

  • 2000 – $0
  • 2001 – $0
  • 2002 – $0
  • 2003 – $500.00
  • 2004 – $10,321.00
  • 2005 – $2,845.00
  • 2006 – $0
  • 2007 – $0
  • 2008 – $25,316.00
  • 2009 – $18,714.38
  • 2010 – $16,777.62
  • 2011 – $13,726.49
  • 2012 – $12,842.18
  • 2013 – $5,570.81
  • 2014 – $6,020.40
  • 2015 – $3,796.76
  • 2016 to date – $2,186.26

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