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Battle over Westchase birds may lead to a lawsuit

Posted at 9:49 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 23:19:08-04

WESTCHASE, Fla — Dani Hall knows a thing or two about birds.

"I have rehabilitated and worked and studied with vultures for many years," she said.

So, you can imagine her shock when she heard that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was using fireworks to scare black vultures out of a Westchase neighborhood.

"It's nesting season right now. They have little baby chicks. So if the vultures are scared off, they'll be abandoned and they'll starve and die in the heat," she said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released the following statement on this issue:

Vultures are state and federally protected as a migratory bird, therefore it is unlawful to harm or kill them without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. If however, the vulture is tearing up a screen porch, or chewing up shingles or roofs, then you may want to consider scaring them with Pyrotechnics. The Wildlife Services group of the United States Department of Agriculture at 352-3775556 can provide more information.

But for Hall, permitted or not, this plan amounts to a headache for everyone who lives out there including other wildlife. And she says it likely won't have the long-term impact that the USDA wants.

"So they [the vultures] will most likely be back here because space in nature is a premium. So this, they have found a suitable space, they will come back to it," she said.

Here's what Hall says you should do if the vultures are bothering you.

"You can use spikes, you can use effigies like owls or hawks, you can go into your yard when you see them and clap your hands and shoo them off," she said.

In the meantime, she and the group she works with, called Florida Voices for Animals, want people to re-frame how we think about vultures and their role in our lives.

"Dead animals that we hit with our cars or just die of natural causes, they can carry disease and vultures take care of that 'trash' for us and control that disease," she said.

The USDA-APHIS has released the following statement:

The plan is to have one employee nonlethally disperse the black vultures (there are no turkey vultures there, they are black vultures) using pyrotechnics over the period of up to two weeks. If that doesn’t work, then we may lethally remove a few vultures to create effigies – which are often created using dead vultures and are hung up in trees to discourage roosting as vultures will not roost near-dead vultures. There are no plans to kill all the vultures. Effigies are used to reinforce nonlethal harassment techniques.

But Hall tells ABC Action News that her group is now exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit.