Animals Wow!

Wildlife expert defends vultures, expresses concern about Broadlands plan

Dr. Jennifer Riley says efforts to scare away the birds can have unintended consequences.

Thursday morning, The Burn published an article about an upcoming effort to deter vultures from congregating in The Broadlands neighborhood of Ashburn. The plans — in conjunction with the Broadlands neighborhood, Loudoun County Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — call for using pyrotechnics and lasers, as well as dead vultures hanging in trees, to convince vultures in The Broadlands to move elsewhere.

Vultures on Rooftops in Ashburn, Virginia

Dr. Jennifer Riley, a wildlife veterinarian, was alarmed by the article and by the planned deterrent event and she provided a detailed response that sheds additional light on the subject. Here is a portion what she shared with us:

“I am the Director of Veterinary Services at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Boyce, VA. Since I began working at this hospital in 2016, we have treated over 150 vultures. Of these, about 25 percent come from Loudoun County (as do ¼ of all our patients). Over 10 percent come in as gunshot victims (it is a Federal crime to shoot vultures). Over 10 percent have actual trash in their stomachs (usually plastic, but even items like iPhone chargers have been pulled out of their stomachs here). Over 80 percent come in with lead poisoning.”

“These animals are so important to public health. They feed on decaying carcasses which prevents disease spread in our neighborhoods. They neutralize viruses like rabies and infectious material like anthrax, botulism toxins, and more. We repay them by killing them and spreading false information about why they are here and the damage they cause.”

“Yes, when people are irresponsible and attract wildlife by leaving trash unsecured (as seen in the chosen photo for this article) and leaving food out for domestic animals, human-wildlife conflict will occur. THIS should be the focus of articles on the subject.” 

Vultures gathered on the playground at Hillside Elementary School in The Broadlands. (Image: Steve Kapinos)

“Yes, their feces can damage paint. Yes, they will pick at loose shingles on damaged roofs. Yes, residents should deter them from congregating in those areas. But they should do some with the knowledge of their importance (more than the one-liner about environmental health that is hidden in the letter from the Broadlands Association).”

“Pyrotechnics used consecutively for days WILL help discourage vultures (and may scare pets as the letter suggests), but they will also cause birds and other wildlife to abandon nests, strike buildings, and cause other issues. These are not vulture-specific deterrents and the damage they will cause should be discussed so that people know what to do when they find abandoned babies and recognize how over-burdened our rehabilitators, who receive no state or federal funding, will become as a result.”

“The real story here is in this article’s chosen photo. Secure your trash. Don’t leave pet food outdoors. Don’t intentionally attract wildlife then use pyrotechnics to scare them. Instead, respect the animals who are helping to clean up our mess and change behaviors to avoid attracting them to specific areas.” 

“Articles like this, though I’m sure there was no ill-intention, only serve to convince people that these birds, which are so important to human and environmental health, are a nuisance. It is information like this that leads to the intentional shooting of these federally protected birds and “solutions” like pyrotechnics that hurt other wildlife.”

(Image at top: Rick Svensson)

7 Comments
  1. MN 9 months ago
    Reply

    They dont seem to be eating garbage on the playground at the school. And it seems they are becoming more aggressive according to the attached article.
    https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/black-vultures-the-rise-growing-problem-for-livestock-producers

  2. Michael Ciocci 9 months ago
    Reply

    Ignorance, plain and simple. Humans encroach on lands occupied by wildlife, then do everything in their power to rid the wildlife from their neighborhoods. It’s unconscionable. The wildlife suffers and will always lose. We always want the easy way out. Eradicate. People think they should not have to do anything to help the situation. Lazy humans I say. Do what ever is necessary to make the problem go away. As long as we don’t have to lift a finger to help the process. What is required of people is not much in order to coexist with wildlife.
    Ranchers utilize vast areas of public lands that are inhabited with our mighty carnivores and when one, two or however many of the herd is killed they want open season on the bear, wolf, coyote or mountain lion. We are so fortunate to have these incredible animals in our country, yet they are considered a nuisance for only trying to survive.
    The people that are the decision makers are bought and paid for by special interest groups. Our wildlife is always on the losing end.
    People won’t be happy until all the animals are gone. And when that happens are eco systems will be in peril. It’s like the butterfly effect. Take one away and the whole system is out of whack.
    The 6th extinction is upon us and we should be doing everything in our power to preserve as many creatures as we can.

  3. Lizzy Dragon 9 months ago
    Reply

    I agree on the trash. Put it in a can with the lid secure. How hard is that? Well it must be for my lazy ass neighbor as he just throws the bag out and the vultures tear it apart and the garbage is everywhere but I digress

    On that note, If [and they are] they are committing all of that damage, they must be removed. I’m fine with the plan to remove them. Even the Vet says it WILL work. So be it, get er done. Let me guess, these vultures are not a problem at Vet Riley’s house.

    Let me tell you what these vultures do; they open garbage, spread around trash including discarded food including chicken bones etc. My dogs try to pick this stuff up. Yes it’s my job to watch my dogs, but even then, these bones eventually migrate around the hood and the pups find them.

    I do speak with the resident bag boy who puts his trash out in a bag and he continues. So that is a different fight. Right now, I’d like these vultures gone from my hood as well.

    Get rid of them!!!

  4. John Roberts 9 months ago
    Reply

    Not sure why she thinks it is “false information about the damage they cause”. The damage is real, the school playground is a health hazard to our children. I do agree that it would be responsible of our neighbors to secure our trash, but some people are lazy and just don’t care.

  5. Patsy 9 months ago
    Reply

    I live in this neighborhood and the vultures are absolutely causing damage. The tot lot next to our house is sometimes unusable because of the vulture poop on it, and they are destroying people’s roofs. its not like they swoop in on trash day, they LIVE in the Broadlands neighborhood.

  6. Felicia 8 months ago
    Reply

    Congrats Ryan!

  7. Felicia 8 months ago
    Reply

    Congrats Ryan!

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