West Texas summer heat is doing at least one good thing for Graham: driving away a troublesome vulture infestation. The relief will likely be temporary though, Young County Game Warden Brent Isom said. 

“More than likely the birds will come back because they’re creatures of habit and they go to where they feel comfortable and where they were raised,” Isom said. 

Isom thinks the vultures are seeking out cooler roosting areas near Possum Kingdom Lake, he added. 

Graham Police Department Chief Tony Widner anticipates the return of the scavenging birds and is prepared to take lethal measures to discourage them from nesting in Graham. 

Earlier this spring, vultures gathered on top of the radio tower that stands above Kiddie Kottage day-care center.
Earlier this spring, vultures gathered on top of the radio tower that stands above Kiddie Kottage day-care center. (Casey Holder)

“Right now we haven’t done anything other than monitor to see when the population starts building up again,” Widner said. “So hopefully we can take steps right at the beginning.”  

Vultures have been roosting in Graham for about three years, and area experts said that in large numbers, they can cause property damage and health concerns, mainly through their feces, especially in the large quantities produced under a roosting spot where many birds gather for extended periods. A continuing problem spot has been the radio tower on Cherry Street near its intersection with First Street. 

Just below the tower, in the line of fire, sits the Kiddie Kottage day-care center. The proximity of the vultures’ excrement to children’s playground equipment was a key concern for the City of Graham. But as the weather heats up, it’s become less of a problem, if any at all.

“I plum forgot about them,” Kiddie Kottage cook Cynthia Griffin said. “They were so bad though. That was gross.”

Griffin said she looks for the birds each morning when she arrives, just before 7 a.m., but hasn’t seen them for two or three months. It’s a welcome relief.

Vultures are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918 and can not be interfered with unless granted special permission. That permission came on Nov. 21, 2013, in the form of a permit allowing Graham Fire Rescue to harass the birds with pyrotechnic projectiles fired from modified pistols. 

The harassment campaign began in December 2013 but was deemed inadequate in March. That’s when the stakes were raised as city officials obtained permission to use lethal methods to curb the buzzard population.

Shown above is the modified pistol firefighters used earlier this year to deter groups of roosting vultures.
Shown above is the modified pistol firefighters used earlier this year to deter groups of roosting vultures. (Casey Holder)

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.