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Battling the buzzards: Vultures flock by the hundreds to Warrenton neighborhood

WARRENTON, Ga. - They're big nasty looking birds. And they've laid claim to at least one neighborhood here for the last five years.

City officials say it's now time that the pesky birds, known both as vultures and buzzards and for their eating carcasses of dead animals, leave town.

Thus far, the stubborn birds haven't taken heed to hundreds of warning shots fired from shotguns of officers with the Warrenton Police Department. When the warning shots are fired at them, as they perch on tree branches, they merely fly off for a few minutes and then return - often times bringing back even more of their large feathered friends.

"It seems as though they know that we can't kill them, because they are protected by U.S. Wildlife Laws," says Warrenton Police Chief Jim McClain. "We can't shoot them, because it's against the law. It's time we addressed this issue in another way, because it's a real concern for the people living in this neighborhood. I can't imagine how many warning shots have been fired at those birds."

Chief McClain said the problem has gotten so bad that many residents have reported damages to the rubber lining, windshield wipers and outdoor lawn furniture.

"Something has just got to be done about these buzzards, because they're simply taking over this entire neighborhood," Chief McClain said. "I've never seen so many buzzards in all my life. We need some outside help."

The neighborhood where these birds have settled involves several streets. They include Newton, Gordon, Hart, Hopgood streets and Meadow Road - all within the city limits of Warrenton.

It's not uncommon to ride through the neighborhood and find vultures perched on rooftops of homes or in trees in the yards, the police chief said.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said Warrenton Mayor Pro Tem Chris McCorkle during a recent city council meeting. "They're lighting on cars and all. It is a public health matter at this point. It's gone beyond anything I've ever seen before."

Mr. McCorkle contends that the vultures are expanding their reach and that hundreds of them can be seen perched or flying in the area at certain times.

Milledge Samuels, city sanitation and recreation director, says he has seen as many as 200 to 300 vultures in that neighborhood.

"There's no doubt about it, it's a real problem for the people living in that neighborhood," Mr. Samuels said.

One of those residents is Ella Griffin, a retired cafeteria supervisor in Augusta, who has lived in Warrenton since 1998.

"They get on the cars and leave black stuff that you can't get off unless you wash it off," Ms. Griffin said. "They've even ripped open my lawn furniture and pulled the foam out. They tore up my umbrella on my back porch, too."

Ms. Griffin said she has used her son's pellet gun to scare them off, but they come right back later.

"I've even thrown rocks at them to scare them off," Ms. Griffin said.

City officials are hopeful that something can be worked out to rid the vultures from the neighborhood without it costing a lot of money.

Councilman Craig Hunter said he had spoken to officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

"Maybe, we can find a way to resolve this problem without having to spend a lot of tax dollars to get this resolved," Mr. Hunter said.

Web posted on Thursday, April 03, 2008

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