York County residents who live near York High School will likely hear what sounds like fireworks going off this week in the early evening, starting today and lasting for as many as 10 days.
There won’t be any fireworks but if the pyrotechnics technique works to disperse a vulture roost that’s taken up on a cell tower adjacent to the school and Bailey Field, a celebration might be in order.
The county school division’s Chief Operations Officer Carl James notified the school community in a robocall Sunday night to expect some nighttime noise. James described it as a “series of loud noises like fireworks” and said the strategy had been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The vultures are migratory birds federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That agency issues permits to relocate, trap, kill or otherwise handle migratory birds.
Vultures are a nuisance mostly because of what they leave behind: feces and vomit. They generally feed on carrion, although the birds “occasionally take live, relatively defenseless prey, including newborn calves or lambs,” according to a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries factsheet on black vulture management.
The vultures near York High School have been a nuisance for years and were relocated once before using similar efforts, York schools spokeswoman Katherine Goff said. Damage caused to school division property because of the “excessive” bird droppings as well as the potential health concern led to the decision to try to shoo the birds away using pyrotechnics.
About two dozen vultures occupied the tower Monday morning, with a half-dozen in a nearby tree.
According to a fact sheet by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on managing vulture damage, several methods can be effectively employed to disperse a roost, including pyrotechnics on recently established roosting places like the cell tower near Bailey Field. Other methods, the fact sheets says, include broadcasting distress calls of other birds, allowing helium-filled mylar balloons to rise in the roost, shooting one or two vultures, and hanging a vulture carcass upside-down in the roost area. All forms of dispersement require federal permits.
In his call, James said the noise would present “no physical threat to birds or people.”