Lakewood Ranch Herald

Vultures unwelcome squatters in Greenfield

EAST MANATEE — Some Greenfield Plantation residents are unhappy that one of nature’s most famous agents of biological cleanup has made a home in their community.

“We don’t want to kill them, and we couldn’t anyway because they’re protected, but we sure feel like killing them because they’re so destructive,” said Ron Baker, who lives on Planter’s Manor Way, which seems to be directly in the flight path of the vultures’ daily schedule.

An estimated 200 vultures inhabit a small part of Greenfield Plantation, which is on State Road 64 near Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Baker said.

It’s been about three years since the vultures, which are said to dispose of Greenfield Plantation’s vehicular victims such as dead squirrels in minutes, began to permanently roost amid the live oaks and old Florida vegetation that comprise a protected preserve near hole No. 8 at The Links golf course.

The vultures fly in a direct line every day from the county landfill on Lena Road to eat, then return to Greenfield Plantation to sleep and take care of nature’s call, Baker said.

Neighbors say the big birds — some range upwards of 30 pounds, but most are 10 to 15 pounds — are destroying the live oaks with their excrement and urine.

“It smells like a chicken coop over there if the wind is right,” said Roger Post, who lives across the street from Baker.

Equally as troubling is the bird’s habit of landing on neighbors’ rooftops early in the morning.

“It sounds like elephants walking across the roof,” Baker said.

The birds also walk on pool cages, damaging netting, and often, die in swimming pools when they fall in and can’t get out, the neighbors said.

A recent program started by nearby Haile Middle School to rid its campus of vultures by spraying methyl anthranilate in a vapor has apparently driven even more of the critters to Greenfield Plantation.

“I think we have had an increase of maybe 50 or more,” said Baker, who wants to see if the vapor, which smells like grape bubble gum, can reduce the population in Greenfield Plantation as well.

In their battles against the vultures, Baker and his neighbors have had to be very cagey and careful.

Roger Post, who lives across the street from Baker, has mounted motion-activated squirt guns on his roof.

“They miss more than hit,” Post said.

Baker uses a hose to squirt the birds, also to little effect.

Post wonders if a cannon designed to scare away larger critters would help.

“We used it on the farms in Maryland,” said Post, who is from Wisconsin and Maryland. “That big boom scares them.”

The neighbors have been in touch with the state wildlife office and have been told if they kill a vulture they will be fined.

“What they like to do is land on our pool cages and try to rip out the rubber spine that holds the cages together,” Post said. “We hear it’s an aphrodisiac to them.”

“It gets them high,” said Baker, who discovered a big bird foaming at the mouth with a piece of rubber in its mouth.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.