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November 20, 2012 12:10 am




The buzzards are back in Culpeper.

Well, actually, they never left. Like a back in motion on a football team, they have just shifted positions.

For two decades now, Culpeper has been battling these aerial scavengers that have made the town their home.

By day, the vultures cruise over the highways and fields looking for dead animals. But at night, they always seem to return to the town, partly because it is one of the highest points in the area.

First, the birds began roosting nightly in a grove of locust trees at what was then Joe DeJarnette Motors near Broad Street. After being frightened off, they moved to Mary Ann Kelsey's house between West Street and Blue Ridge Avenue (behind Culpeper Baptist Church), where town efforts caused them to leave.

Now it seems that the turkey vultures and Mexican short-tail buzzards (which mingle but do not interbreed) have changed religion and moved to the Culpeper United Methodist Church (among other locations) at the south end of town.

The feeding of stray cats behind the Southgate Shopping Center may have brought some of the birds to the Methodist church area.

Their roosting habits have caused problems with utility cables and their droppings on metal roofs not only are unsightly, but are acidic and cause the metal to rust.

The town police department (with permission and assistance from federal officials) has done battle with buzzards, a protected species, in the past. Now, with complaints on the rise, a new chapter in that ongoing war is about to begin.

Beginning Dec. 3, town employees (not police), along with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will make another attempt to run the unwanted residents out of town.

An aerial bombardment, with loud firecracker-type devices, will be used to get the birds to move their roosts to rural areas. If that fails, some of the more than 70 buzzards will probably be shot.

The fireworks, which have been employed in the past, will begin at dusk. Those who live on the outlying sections of Main Street, Williams Street, West Fairview Road, Third Street, the area between Park Avenue and Mason Street and near Southgate Shopping Center should expect to hear noise.

"Some of the techniques [used] will be loud and bright," said town spokesman Wally Bunker.

Occasionally, a dead vulture (or a replica thereof) may be hung upside down from a tree or tower to get the vultures' attention.

"Using effigies deters roosting," said town Public Works Director Jim Hoy.

The efforts will take place both on town and private property, with the owner's permission. So expect some booms and flashes this winter as dusk arrives.

"We ask the public's patience as we work to rid the town of these nuisance roosts," Hoy said.

Donnie Johnston:

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