SHREVEPORT, La. — The reopening of a Bill Cockrell Park revealed a creepy problem — vultures — and a lot of them.
“I was mostly answering questions about — ‘please get rid of these vultures,’ and ‘do whatever you can to get rid of them,'” says SPAR Director Shelly Ragle.
Since the vultures are a protected species, Ragle’s office called the USDA’s Wildlife Services office for some expertise to remove the vultures. But the method created more calls to the city.
The federal wildlife office strung up a few dead vultures near the areas where about 200 vultures are roosting. We saw them perched on the backstops and light standards of the ball fields on Friday morning.
Even though vultures are used to dead creatures — since they eat them — USDA Wildlife Services District Supervisor Walt Cotton says the dead vultures have an effect on live ones.
“When they start seeing their own dead in a roost site, then they panic. They pack up their bags and leave. It’s surprisingly effective,” Cotton explained.
A father and son out to play in the park, Brian and Bryson Wilson, will be glad if the vultures leave the park off Pines Road in the northwest part of the city.
“They’re scary. They keep scaring me,” the young boy said as he got ready to do some football training.
His father has a theory as to why the vulture population suddenly boomed at the ball fields.
“Normally there are kids playing on the baseball fields during this time. So since the baseball fields aren’t being used, they’re using them,” Mr. Wilson said.
“That actually factored into us using the effigies, because there are fewer people utilizing the park,” Cotton said.
The city was considering asking wildlife services to take the dead vultures down on Friday and try a different method. But observers believe they’re driving some of the live vultures away after two days. And Ragle was convinced to keep the effigies up.
“I think once they understood what’s going on and how effective it is, they decided to leave them in place,” Cotton said.
Cotton says we should know in a couple more days if the effigies shoo more of the vultures away. He says he’s only known the method not to work one time.
He says the next plan would be to fire pyrotechnics from a starter pistol for a sustained period of time. He says that be very noisy for both the birds and people.
Cotton says the effigy method is normally not used in cities.
Ragle says vultures have been around the park for a long time. But they took over during the coronavirus shutdown.
“As we began to open the playgrounds up, they just became a bigger problem. And they make a mess and they’re also very frightening,” Ragle said.