Vulture invasion damages homes, cars in East Orange County neighborhood

Some residents at odds with HOA over funding for humane vulture deterrents

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Andrew and Leslie Wright do not recall seeing many vultures when they first purchased a home in the Tudor Grove at Timber Springs subdivision more than a decade ago.

Today, however, it is impossible to enter the gated community in East Orange County without encountering potentially hundreds of black vultures circling in the air, walking on top of roofs or blocking sidewalks with their wings extended.

"We're about a mile from the Econ River, so we're in some wild territory where nature exists, and we understand that," said Andrew Wright.  "But 11 years ago, we didn't have this kind of a problem."

The Wrights said they began noticing more and more black vultures roosting in the trees around their neighborhood roughly a year ago. They believe encroaching development in the area may have displaced the large birds from their previous habitat.

Each day around dawn, the vultures leave the woods and perch themselves on top of homes surrounding a community retention pond.

"We get woken up really early in the morning because we're listening to birds land and take off from our roof," said Leslie Wright. "You're making your first cup of coffee, and there's birds everywhere."

"It sounds like there are rocks being dropped on our rooftop," said Andrew Wright, who estimates 200 to 300 vultures live around the small subdivision.

The birds are also destructive, according to the couple.

"They bite the weather-stripping on your car and scratch the roof of your car," Leslie Wright said.

The Wrights have already spent more than $1,000 replacing the screens on their pool enclosure that have been ripped apart by the vultures' sharp talons or torn by the weight of several birds sitting on them.

The couple said they rarely enjoy their backyard pool anymore due to the vultures regurgitating their food and leaving droppings and feathers around the deck and in the water.

"When they defecate and vomit, that bacteria is going to be transported," said Andrew Wright.

Since black vultures are federally-protected migratory birds, wildlife trappers need a permit to kill or capture them.

"I don't want to harm the birds," said Leslie Wright.  "I just want to move them."

The couple contacted a local wildlife removal company in search of a way to humanely deter the vultures from congregating in her neighborhood.

Amok Wildlife Control Services provided the Wrights with a written proposal that included decoy hawk and owl props to scare the vultures away.

Since vultures tend to avoid shiny objects, the proposal also included the installation of mirror reflectors around the community retention pond, as well as other non-lethal vulture deterrents.

The proposed cost for the vulture remediation was $1,050.

Assuming the neighborhood homeowners association would be responsible for coordinating and funding the vulture removal, Wright said she submitted the proposal to their HOA's management company.

Nearly two months later, the HOA announced it would not be addressing the vulture concerns.

"We certainly sympathize with the homeowners most adversely impacted by this phenomenon as these folks are our fellow neighbors, and began investigating options to address the problem," officials with the Tudor Grove at Timber Springs Homeowners Association said in a statement.

HOA board members said they contacted a biologist to devise a strategy to deter the vultures from congregating around the pond.

However, as the association moved closer to installing recommended decoy deterrents, it learned that such efforts were not a guaranteed solution and that additional actions could be required, according to the statement.

The HOA board members also expressed concern that decoys might make the situation worse by encouraging the vultures to relocate from the pond area to additional homes and vehicles.

"Since our resources as a small homeowners’ association are quite limited, we recognized that this could turn into a far more expensive undertaking than we had first imagined," members of HOA board told News 6. "We then deemed it prudent to reach out to our Association's attorney for counsel, and learned that responsibility for remedying the problem lay with the individually affected homeowners and not with the Association."

"The HOA is not responsible for the removal of any natural nuisances," HOA President Karl Pearson said, noting that the vultures had not caused any damage to property owned and maintained by the association. "The next thing you know, homeowners will be asking me to remove armadillos."

The Wrights believe the HOA has a duty to protect the homeowners' property value and should take the lead in organizing vulture remediation.

"In order to eradicate the birds from this area, we need all homeowners in on it," said Andrew Wright.  "You can't just have one house trying to eradicate 300 birds. It's not going to work."

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