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Eureka Springs is working on a vulture relocation plan.

Mayor Robert "Butch" Berry said he has seen hundreds of vultures in the heavily wooded neighborhood between Ridgeway and Linwood streets.

"They were just all over flocking in the trees -- everywhere," he said.

Residents are banging wooden spoons on cooking pots to try to scare the vultures away. They say umbrellas are useful as a shield from vulture droppings.

Berry said residents have complained about the problem, and he'll bring the issue up at the City Council's regular meeting today.

"I'm just going to talk about what needs to be done and the solution," he said.

Faced with a similar vulture infestation in 2007, the city used sonic cannons to shoo the birds away. So Berry is considering cannons this time.

But the cannon noise bothered neighbors in 2007. City Hall was inundated with complaints, so Eureka Springs stopped using the cannons after just one night.

Berry said he wants to make sure the public is informed about what's going on before any noisemakers are used.

Black vultures are migratory and more aggressive than native red-headed turkey vultures. The black vultures arrive in Arkansas by the thousands in September and October, and they stay through the winter before leaving in the spring.

Black vultures rip away at anything resembling rubber, including windshield wipers, car door insulation and even the rubber expansion joints separating sections of sidewalk, said Bruce Caldwell, supervisory natural resource biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mountain Home.

The two types of vultures often hunt together, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

"Turkey vultures have an excellent sense of smell, but black vultures aren't nearly as accomplished sniffers," according to the lab. "To find food they soar high in the sky and keep an eye on the lower-soaring turkey vultures. When a turkey vulture's nose detects the delicious aroma of decaying flesh and descends on a carcass, the black vulture follows close behind."

While some residents of the Eureka Springs neighborhood have complained about the birds, others think it's a fine venue for the vultures.

Joyce Roberts, who lives in the affected neighborhood, said she doesn't mind having the vultures around.

"I figure they were here first," she said.

Roberts said the numbers vary each year.

"In 2015, there were considerably fewer than the 600-plus I counted in 2013," she said. "They lay their eggs on the ground, and the chicks stay grounded until they molt. This leaves a lot of white downy fuzz in the yard and ravine. It looks like the neighborhood vents their dryer lint, but it's all bird fluff.

"They take to the air as a group at or near sunrise and sunset. They circle, swoop and dive. It's kind of creepy but gives a great effect on Halloween night."

Beth Withey said the presence of vultures in the area attracted her to the house that she and her husband bought in 2011.

Withey said she enjoys watching the vultures and doesn't want them evicted from the neighborhood.

"We're not really strange people in goth attire or anything, but we enjoy watching all species of birds," she said.

Withey said she doesn't want the vultures harmed, so the sonic cannons would probably be OK. But the noise would also chase other birds from the neighborhood.

Vultures are a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so they can't legally be killed without permission from the federal government.

In October 2012, about 1,500 black vultures descended on Bull Shoals Dam, 87 miles east of Eureka Springs on the White River. The vultures ripped up roof material, and their caustic droppings corroded parts of the dam.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used pyrotechnics and sonic cannons to chase some of the vultures away, but about 300 remained until this summer.

Vultures are scavengers, but they have an aversion to the dead of their own species.

The Corps got a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and on June 22, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission worker shot four of the vultures with a 12-gauge shotgun. The vulture carcasses were strung up around the dam.

A Corps spokesman said it was a "last resort."

As a result, there are no more vultures on the dam, Caldwell said Friday.

There are, however, 200 to 300 vultures in the vicinity. That group apparently doesn't migrate and stays at Bull Shoals year-round.

Caldwell said he's expecting the usual 1,500 vultures to migrate to Bull Shoals over the next few weeks.

If they go to the dam, nonlethal tactics will be used to try to chase them away, he said. If those tactics are not successful, lethal actions will be considered again.

Metro on 09/28/2015

Print Headline: Vultures flock to Eureka Springs

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Archived Comments

  • LR1955
    September 28, 2015 at 9:09 a.m.

    That many vultures have to have a good food source, what is it people ? ES had a wild pig problem several years ago, is someone killing hogs & dumping them in this neighborhood?

  • dumblikeme
    September 28, 2015 at 2:17 p.m.

    It's probably just some kind of lawyer convention.

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