HERSHEY, Pa. — Hundreds of black vultures have descended on Hershey. Residents want them gone. But as a protected species, there’s not much that can be done to make the vultures leave.
The birds of prey, which can have a wingspan of up to 5 feet, originate from the southern U.S. In recent years, though, they have been sighted farther north.
The USDA began tagging and tracking the Hershey committee of vultures in 2020. Since then, the birds have been sighted in six neighboring states and as far north as Quebec, Canada.
As they reach new habitats, the vultures’ destructive habits are creating problems in many Pennsylvania communities.
“They’ve been very destructive to our homes, to our vehicles, pulling the shingles off of our roof, and their excrement has been ruining the finishes on our vehicles,” said Tracy Brown, a Derry Township resident who has been vocal about the vulture problem.
Brown posted videos on social media showing hundreds of birds perched on houses in her neighborhood.
“It’s like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, really,” Brown said.
Amid rising complaints, Derry Township is now getting involved. A USDA representative came to a board of supervisors meeting on Oct. 12 to discuss mitigation options.
As a federally protected species, it’s illegal to harm black vultures. Trapping or killing one without a permit can result in a fine of up to $15,000 and six months in prison.
The only option left is to scare them away, according to USDA wildlife services district supervisor Tony Roland.
“Going to have to be aggressive at it, provide a lot of effort up front to make them feel uncomfortable,” Roland said.
Tactics to scare the birds away include fireworks, lasers, scarecrows, shooting paintballs near them or spraying them with water.
Some of those measures won’t work in Hershey, however, as many of the birds roost in or near the Hershey Company’s ZooAmerica. Fireworks, for example, would disturb the zoo’s resident animals.
The zoo has been directing employees to spray the vulture with water for at least three years, so far with little effect.
“They just don’t seem to be relocating,” said Jason White, managing director of corporate safety and security at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.
The township agreed to start working with the USDA on a long-term mitigation plan.
New legislation may soon provide relief for Hershey homeowners. A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would remove federal protections for black vultures. A sister bill is expected to be introduced soon in the House.