Vulture poop is no laughing matter for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Kingsville, Texas. The Washington Post reported that approximately 300 vultures have been loitering around a 320-foot CBP tower for more than six years, creating corrosive tower conditions and a dangerous situation for climbers.
The acidic excretion is only one part of the problem.
Vultures also regurgitate the undigested bones and fur of the prey they feed on, leaving piles of contaminated debris on the ground surrounding the tower.
“They will often defecate and vomit from their roost onto buildings below that house employees and equipment,” said a CBP spokesperson. “There are anecdotes about birds dropping prey from a height of 300 feet, creating a terrifying and dangerous situation for those concerned.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture stated the birds also, “regurgitate a reeking and corrosive vomit that kills bacteria on their legs but also slowly destroys metal.” These corrosive and dangerous conditions put the CBP’s communication system at risk, according to the agency, hindering the exchange of information amongst border security personnel.
According to a CBP request for information sent to vendors, the entire exterior and interior surface of the tower is coated with acidic excretion, impacting tower workers who need to touch the structure for maintenance. The government is seeking a “Vulture Deterrence Netting System” to be installed in August before the birds’ roosting season.
The Washington Post reported the CBP plans to, “clean the contaminated radio tower, remove the rust and repaint the structure before installing the netting that it hopes will deter future vultures from setting up shop.”
“CBP’s Office of Information Technology has been working closely with several agencies … to determine a good path toward a solution that will deter the vultures from roosting atop our towers while ensuring no harm to the birds,” the spokesperson said. “Research has shown that netting has proven to be a viable deterrent by restricting the birds from being able to initiate roost.”
Additional means of deterring and removing the vultures have been proposed, including nighttime propane cannons or pyrotechnics and hanging an effigy of a vulture on site because birds avoid congregating near where another bird has been hurt or killed. While lethal removal of the birds has been proposed by the Agriculture Department, the option is not viable due to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that imposes fines upwards of $200,000 for killing protected species.
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