SNOW HILL — Vultures have descended upon properties in the Roseboro area and taken over, gathering by the dozens on rooftops, across yards and atop vehicles along Marion Amos Road and the surrounding community, making residents prisoners in their own homes.
“It sounds like horses on our rooftops,” said Georgette Bert. “They are destroying our roofs and cars. The turkey buzzards are increasing.”
Assistant county manager Susan Holder said the problem concerns birds commonly called turkey vultures, a species protected in the United States under federal law — the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Turkey vultures can be 2 feet in length and have a wingspan in excess of 5 feet. Under the law, fines up to $15,000 can be assessed for violations.
Bert noted the close proximity of her Canterbury Lane property and others along Marion Amos Road to the Sampson County Landfill on Roseboro Highway and inquired as to whether some landfill activities had been modified that would result in the unwanted visits by the flying menaces. She said she has researched the birds and notes that where there is a landfill, buzzards will tend to congregate.
That congregation of massive hunched birds is an everyday occurrence, especially first thing in the morning, she and others said. A group of concerned residents, including Bert, Gloria Anderson and Rose Parker, pleaded to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners Monday night for help.
On Tuesday, county officials spoke with landfill manager Bryan Wuester, who said he met several weeks ago with area residents about the issue.
“In response to their concerns and the landfill’s own concerns, he contacted Wildlife, who advised that there were exemptions possible if they could prove the birds were a nuisance,” Holder stated Tuesday. “The exemption allows for a permit to shoot up to a certain maximum number of the birds per year. The landfill has applied for such permit and is awaiting receipt of that permit. They are communicating with a group of concerned residents and the Town of Roseboro.”
It is believed the permit will set that maximum number of birds at 50.
On Monday, Parker said she had heard of such a provision that would allow for eradicating nuisance birds. Residents said it is a problem that needs to be resolved.
“One morning I came out and the sky was just filled with turkey buzzards,” Bert remarked.
Anderson, who lives on Chesters Road, echoed that experience. She said she is scared to come out of her own home because the flock is so thick and ornery.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she stated. “I hope I never wake up again and hear them on top of my house, because you don’t know where to go or what to do. If you try to go out, they’ll look at you like ‘it’s your domain or mine.’ They do not move.”
For her part, Anderson said Monday that she had exhausted all avenues to try and eradicate the problem. She said she knows it is not as easy as getting a firearm and having a skeet shoot session, but every agency seems to refer her to the next. Commissioner Harry Parker attested to similar roadblocks when inquiring about the issue.
“I called the Health Department, they sent me to Animal Control. I called Animal Control, they sent me to the Wildlife office. I called Wildlife, they sent me to Environmental Control. Then Environmental Control sent me to the N.C. Department of Health,” said Anderson. “We need your help because no one else is giving us any. We can’t sit on our decks and we can no longer enjoy our property.”
She said the adults are “wooing” every day and it won’t be long before another generation of buzzards are harassing the residents of Snow Hill. At the commissioners meeting, the women passed around photos of the birds, in flight, seated in yards and perched ten at a time atop roofs.
“I’ve seen them in trees, but I’ve never seen them on the house like that,” board chairman Billy Lockamy attested.
“It looks like they’re about to pick the house up,” Commissioner Albert Kirby added.
Holder, who researched the issue to a small extent previously, said she understood the turkey vultures to be more of a seasonal issue, however the female residents said it was a “year-round” problem for them.
“This makes their homes inhabitable,” Kirby said. “I understand we can’t get the shotgun and kill them but we can’t honestly ask someone to pay property taxes if they have this problem making their homes inhabitable. I can’t imagine having that number of buzzards around my house. We have to do something.”
“I wouldn’t want to see that on my house,” Parker concurred. “We have to do something to help these people out.”
Rose Parker, another resident of Snow Hill who lives about two-tenths of a mile from the landfill, asked how large the species had to get “before we do anything.” Holder said there were devices that could be installed on rooftops to shock the birds. Anderson has looked into that, but noted the system costs between $3,000 and $5,000.
“I don’t think I should have to spend that money,” she stated.
Bert mentioned that the residents were all taxpayers and this was infringing on their properties, health and quality of life.
“We know this is a health issue. We pay the same taxes but because of the landfill, and now this, the value of our properties is going down,” Bert commented.
Lockamy mentioned another ongoing problem the county has combated for years — beavers. This is, quite literally, a different animal all together, he said. Where beavers are able to be trapped, buzzards cannot.
“I wouldn’t want to live in that environment,” the chairman said. “It’s a bad situation.”
Commissioner Clark Wooten implored his fellow commissioners and county staff to do everything in their power to help the residents. He apologized that the women have had to endure the problem and, on top of that, the runaround from various agencies.
“I’m really sorry for the situation you’re in. If there’s a way to ease that, that’s what we’re here for,” Wooten stated. “I have a short temper for the runaround these ladies have endured, and Mr. Parker as well. We need to do what we can to thin that herd and give them some relief.”
“It’s easy to say ‘we’re going to help’ but we need to bow up and do it,” Wooten continued. “We have to take these people seriously.”
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