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Birds are costing Centre County thousands of dollars in damage. Will this be a solution?

Air Force and USDA researching vultures, helping them to stay away from aircraft

Vulture populations in the southeastern United States have increased in recent years, so wildlife experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at MacDill Air Force Base and the National Wildlife Research Center in Florida are tagging them.
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Vulture populations in the southeastern United States have increased in recent years, so wildlife experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at MacDill Air Force Base and the National Wildlife Research Center in Florida are tagging them.

The Willowbank Building could soon see enhancements aimed at protecting its roof against birds that have caused thousands of dollars in damage.

In an effort to improve safety and maintain building structure, the Centre County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to move forward with the installation of an elevated vulture deterrent system, adding the measure to next week’s consent agenda.

“Turkey vultures are roosting on the (Willowbank) roof and creating some damage,” said Deputy Administrator Robert Jacobs. “They’re ripping up a lot of the rubber roof material. It’s creating damage not only to the roof, but also interior to the structure.”

Jacobs said the county’s tax assessment office has been flooded several times as a result of the damage. He met with representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture to assess damage Tuesday morning. Jacobs said a section that was replaced last year has already been damaged.

“That’s a $14,000 repair right there,” he said.

J.C. Ehrlich Pest Control Company would install a wire net across the entire area of the Willowbank roof, Jacobs said. The cost of grid installation would be $25,565.

“It will be a system of poles and wires,” he said. “Nothing would be affixed to the actual roof itself, but this wire system should prevent the birds from landing on the roof and creating damage.”

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects the vultures, so installing the grid system is the most humane way to deter them from landing on the roof, Jacobs said.

Turkey and black vultures convene on the 911 tower — one of the highest points in Bellefonte — behind the Willowbank Building, said Commissioner Michael Pipe.

“They like it here, but in terms of the roof, they also like the roof,” Pipe said. “They like eating it. They like tearing it up.”

The county has attempted to use fake birds to scare the vultures away from the Willowbank, but Pipe said the elevated system is the most amicable way to solve the problem while protecting the birds.

“They are some of the most persistent things I’ve seen in a while,” Commissioner Steve Dershem said.

The USDA is unsure why vultures are attracted to rubber material but reports that large groups may occupy woodlots near homes and cause damage to homes, commercial buildings and vehicles.

“We come in peace with the black vultures, so we look for an amicable solution to this,” Pipe said, laughing.

Installation is expected to be completed mid-fall.

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