Buzz off, buzzards: Craig Police to spook nuisance vultures | CraigDailyPress.com

Buzz off, buzzards: Craig Police to spook nuisance vultures

A turkey vulture spreads its wings at roost. Turkey vultures, with their foul excrement and ominous presence, have become a nuisance in Craig.

CRAIG — The Craig Police Department is in pursuit of a group of unexpected offenders — turkey vultures.

CPD is using shell crackers and whistlers to spook birds in the area north of Yampa Avenue to 10th Street and between Ranney and School Streets. People in the area will likely hear loud bangs and whistles at dusk as police and community service officers fire noisemakers toward the vultures.

The hazing is expected to continue for about three weeks, depending on how the buzzards react.

CPD uses cracker shells and whistlers to scare the birds. Turkey vultures are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so it is illegal to kill the birds without a permit. Wright said the hazing does not harm the vultures; rather, it frightens them with small explosions.

"The vultures are not being harmed," said CPD Community Service Officer Josh Wright. "It makes an explosion, but there's no mass behind it."

The Craig Police Department is using launchers like this one to fire bird whistlers in areas where turkey vultures are roosting.

CPD Commander Bill Leonard encouraged residents to call dispatch if they believe they've heard gunshots in their neighborhood.

"If there's any doubt, they still need to call in to dispatch if they hear what they think are shots fired," Leonard said. Usually, the dispatcher will be able to tell callers if vulture hazing is occurring in an area, he added.

Turkey vultures stink, literally, and they vomit up rotting carrion when they feel threatened. What's more, the vomit is acidic and corrosive. Inside a vulture's stomach, this helps kill bacteria, so they can safely digest the rotting foods they scavenge. When it comes to the surface as vomit or excrement, though, it's powerful enough to kill trees.

Their excrement is also foul-smelling, and the whitewash effect it leaves behind is often unwanted by homeowners.

Turkey vultures are a staple of spooky scenes in books and films, and seeing a group of buzzards roosting around a home can create an ominous feeling.

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Every spring, the birds return to Craig from their winter grounds in Central and South America.

Since 2016, CPD and other agencies have been hazing turkey vultures within city limits in hopes the birds will roost south of town near the Yampa River. Wright said it's the only place nearby that has the tall trees the vultures need to roost in. It's also less likely they'll create a nuisance if they roost nearer to the river.