John Camp stood outside his house on Mayfair Drive in Leesburg Monday and stared at them: Dark spooky silhouettes, dozens of them, hunched in the trees behind his house.
Vultures. Up to 200 vultures a night deciding that this neighborhood in Leesburg is home for the winter. No one knows quite why. But the town is calling in the feds — the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program — to launch a program of “pyrotechnics, lasers and other dispersal devices” aimed at relocating the vultures away from this residential neighborhood near Edwards Ferry Road.
“You’d think this would only be out in the country, some rural area,” Camp said, looking at the ominous creatures. “You wouldn’t expect this in town.”
Neighbors said it’s an annual rite of winter and that the vultures typically aren’t too bothersome because they don’t squawk or make much noise. They just sit there brooding, thinking about that roadkill lunch, or the roadkill that got away.
But they’re doing more than brooding, obviously. Their excrement is acidic enough to eat the paint off cars and strip trees bare, Leesburg Police Lt. Jeffrey Dube said. When they get on a roof, they can destroy rubber seals and flashings. Thus, the measures being taken starting Jan. 7 to push the vultures out of Leesburg.
Dube said this has happened before in other parts of Leesburg, including several years ago over on Cornwall Street, near the old Leesburg Hospital and the Union Cemetery. Vultures near a hospital and a cemetery — truly, cruel birds.
So they take off early in the morning to hunt for dead animals to eat. The Internet tells us that these are New World vultures and that they have particularly corrosive insides, to digest and survive eating diseased material that would kill the rest of us. They swoop back in just before sundown, with some menacing hovering but not too much. There’s no prey below. In fact, there’s plenty of life in the Mayfair neighborhood.
But complaints from residents on Mayfair Drive and Plaza Street, just south of Leesburg Elementary School, about acidic poop and property damage, necessitated some action, Dube said. So, with the residents’ consent, there will be about an hour-long light show in Mayfair starting at 4 p.m. beginning Monday.