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Back to Nature

In: English and Literature

Submitted By done2012
Words 1452
Pages 6
“Back to nature”

There are many environmental problems facing our society today that are a result of human population growth. As the human race multiplies and expands, natural habitats are encroached upon and animal populations spill over into populated areas. Some species have come near extinction while others have flourished. As a result, society is in an ongoing fight to control pest populations in an environmentally safe manner now that the natural predator populations have diminished. One such problem are pest-birds. The current means of dealing with pest-birds ranges from guns and offensive sounds to traps and poisons. None of which are very environmentally or population friendly. As an alternative, many farmers and companies are turning to my method of choice, birds of prey.

As a small child spending time on a farm in Wisconsin, I was able to see this method “in the raw” first hand. My family moved to a non-working farm in Wisconsin and I was thrilled to have a barn to play in. The current resident was a Great Horned owl and she left us pretty much alone. I was happy with exploring the barn and “Old Hooty” was and awesome companion.
Then, one morning I found her dead in-front of the door. I was understandably upset with her loss, but even more scared by what happened later. Not long after her death, there was an infestation of pigeons. Their dropping covered most surfaces and I no longer wanted to play in my cool new hide-out. This was a perfect example of cause and effect; with the removal of the natural predator, the pests moved in and took over. Our landlord’s solution to the pest-horde was to send his boys inside the barn and scare the pidgins out while he stood outside shooting them as they exited. Even as a small child, I deemed this method highly unethical.

The pest-bird problem escalated when starlings invaded from Europe over a century ago.
Flocks migrate by the thousands through the US with the seasons. With so few natural predators, their numbers go unchecked. Along with seagulls, crows and native scavenger birds, the environment is polluted by a source most people would never even consider as dangerous
(Karp 1). Structures are eaten away by bird waste that has an acidic level close to vinegar with a pH of 3 to 4.5. Workers that trudge through the mess left by the birds are at risk as well. An elevator mechanic slipped on fresh bird leavings and fell down the elevator shaft. He was awarded 2.7million dollars. The cost of this invasion is in the billons each year (Gromicko 1). Even more frightening are the human pathogens they carry such as Salmonella, E. Coli, Avian
Botulism and West Nile Virus (Allen, Baxter 1162). In 2011, the popular North Beach in Racine,
Wisconsin closed 27% of the swimming season due to high pathogen contamination from the excessive gull population. The local economy lost in excess of $100,000 every day the beach was closed (Converse, Dufour, Haugland, Hudgens, Kelty, Kinzelman, Ryu, Sams, Santo-
Domingo, Shanks, Siefring, Wade 10206-10207). With parking lots over-run with pigeons, parks and restaurants continually scavenged by seagulls and telephone lines filled end to end with starlings and crows, it’s a wonder anyone leaves their homes without donning masks and gloves. The problem remains in finding an effective, environmentally safe means of deterring these pests from populated areas. Some of the methods still used today are traps, hunting with guns, aerial deterrents such as balloons, netting and secured kites and sonic devices including sonic booms, loud music and repeated gun shots into the air. Metal spikes and wires are used to covered roof tops and balconies and poisons are liberally sprayed on crops and fields, as well as poison gases that hover near the ground. But these all have a common factor, the solid waste and chemicals that are left behind (Gromicko 3-4). For more than twenty years the United Kingdom has been licensing falconers to hunt rabbits in national parks and expanding it to cover pest-bird control. The field had grown by 75% in 2012 and continues to gain interest because it is so “green”(Southam 41). There are no poisons to leech into the soil and water table or man made products to be dropped into landfills. Following the British example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department issued 92 commercial licenses in the last six years (Karp 1). With public awareness expanding, farmers, factory owners, airports and even landfill companies are seeking pest control companies that offer falconry as an alternative (Allen, Baxter 1162). The method is called “hazing”. A master falconer is assigned an area to be cleared of the pest
-birds. Depending on the size of the area, the falconer releases either falcons or hawks. Falcons are more effective for larger spaces such as vineyards, landfills and airports. They fly at higher altitudes and can reach speeds up to 200 miles per hour in a “stoop” or dive. Hawks are better suited to smaller areas such as small farms and areas that are dense like forests and hedge rows. Upon release, the reaction of the pests is instant, they scatter. The falcons or hawks continue this scare tactic with stooping and diving at any intruding birds. Raptors are rested at intervals on perches in sight of any lurking pests. With daily patrols, the area is soon vacated and patrols are then cut back to once a week. It is a simple method that works quickly and efficiently. After all, if Godzilla moved into my neighborhood, I would be looking for a new place to live too (LaPort 2)! It is not a perfect system. Although the goal is not to kill but scare, occasionally a pest-bird will die and the raptor needs to be replaced for that shift as they only hunt when they are hungry (Karp 2). Raptors can also fly off site to feed requiring the handler to waste an hour or more for retrieval. In addition, birds cannot be flown safely at night so it is not a 24/7 operation
(Allen, Baxter 1167). Depending on the area and crop, it may not be cost effective for some farmers. However, with the returning popularity of falconry, smaller farms can persuade local falconers to hunt their birds in their fields (Eddy 35). Services can range from a few $100 for a small crop over run by crows, to upward of
$100,000 for several weeks work at an oil refinery infested with starlings (Karp 2). So if you are considering a career change, be ready for no time off. It takes five years or longer to become licensed as a master falconer and each bird requires two-three hours of care and handling each day. The cost of a bird can be high, with some falcons ranging over $1,000 each (Karp 2). This really is not just a job but a way of life for most falconers. It provides a service that makes the future better for generations to come and in my opinion, not only is falconry a natural process and a creative use of nature, it has the least negative effect on the eco system.

Works Cited
Baxter, Andrew, and John Allen. "Use of Raptors to Reduce Scavenging Bird Numbers at Landfill Sites." Wildlife Society Bulletin 34.4 (2006): 1162-168. Print.
Converse, Reagan, Julie Kinzelman, Elizabeth Sams, Edward Hudgens, Alfred Dufour, Hodon Ryu, Jorge Santo-domingo, Catherine Kelty, Orin Shanks, Shawn Siefring, Richard Haugland, and Timothy Wade. "Dramatic Improvments in Beach Water Quality following Gull Removal." Enviromental Science & Technology 46 (2012): 10206-0213. Print.
Eddy, David. "Fighting Fire with Fire." American Fruit Grower 127.Sec 3 (2007): 34-35. Print.
Gromicko, Nick. "International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)." International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.
Karp, Hannah. "Oil Industrys New Workers Have Great Eyesight - and Feathers- Falcons Find Work at Refineries, Scaring Offsecond Shift Starling; the." The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition (2007): A.1-.3. Dow Jones & Company, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2013.
Karp, Hannah. "Oil Industry's New Workers Have Great Eyesight- and Feathers-falcons Find Jobs at Refineries, Scaring off Starlings; the Second Shift." The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition A.Sec 1 (2007): 1-3. Print.
LaPorte, Nicole. "Pest Control in the Sky , Courtesy of a Raptor." The New York times [New York, Ny] 23 Dec. 2013, 4th ed., sec. L: 1-3. Print.
Southam, Hazel. "Natural Selection." Conservation Falconry July (2012): 41-43. Web. 11 Sept. 2013.

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