Fishermen using the Flat Creek boat-access area at Tuckertown Lake might just do a double-take upon their arrival. At the entrance there’s a newly constructed gazebo with a replica of a vulture hanging upside down from one of its wooden appendages. At the ramp, a single pole holds another artificial effigy of a vulture dangling upside down.
The eerie displays came about because of complaints from fishermen and boaters using the boat ramp, which has become a popular gathering site for black vultures and turkey vultures. The vultures have vandalized tow vehicles at the parking lot, scratching the hoods of cars and trucks, tearing off and snacking on windshield wipers, firewall gaskets, and windshield gaskets. Some damages have exceeded $2,000.
Fishermen and boaters have resorted to covering their vehicles with tarps, towels and blankets for protection.
While fish carcasses from fish cleaned at the ramp, discarded baits and carcasses left by bow fishermen have attracted vultures to some ramps, the Flat Creek ramp has been kept fairly tidy by anglers, so biologists point to another cause for the congregation of vultures there.
“Some ramps — like Flat Creek — are more difficult to control since the problem stems from being in close proximity to large transmission lines,” said Robert Medford, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “Vultures love to roost on very tall structures like transmission towers, and this makes deterring them more difficult since they are already in the area.”
The difficulty of getting rid of vultures at Flat Creek is also enhanced because they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the use of lethal means for eliminating them.
The Commission installed the vulture replicas to repel the living vultures. At some locations, pyrotechnics making loud noises are also being used to scare off vultures from the ramps.
“The (Commission) is working hard to resolve these issues,” said Medford. “Staff from Wildlife Management, Division of Engineering and Lands Management and Law Enforcement are working together to give this issue the attention that it deserves.”
Fishermen can do their part by keeping ramp areas free of dead fish and unused bait.
The gazebo at Flat Creek came about not as a result of the vulture issue but a donation by the Salisbury Bassmasters on behalf of a member who left the club money on his passing. When other work is completed, an official dedication in recognition of the gift is planned, according to the Commission.