When the birds attack: How facilities leaders fight off feathered fiends

Denison University is hanging taxidermic birds in trees and launching fireworks to drive vultures off their campus, Marc Kovac reports for the Columbus Dispatch.

Denison, which is located in Granville, Ohio, is plagued with a large number of black vultures that have made a home in the small liberal arts campus of about 2,100 students, Kovac writes.

The campus' tall buildings and lush forested surroundings offer these birds a "little bit of everything they need," says Jeff Pelc, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Denison's campus was home to about 150 vultures a dozen years ago, says Ken Weigand, chief engineer of facility services at the university. Now, that number has more than doubled, Kovac writes.

The vultures have already damaged campus facilities by picking at caulking around vents and roof membranes, Kovac writes. The birds, whose droppings tend to accumulate around air-handling units, also pose a health hazard for Denison's residents.

Initial efforts to drive away the vultures seem to have worked, Kovac writes. Mollie Ann Prasher, a village clerk at Granville, says residents should bang pots and pans if they spot vultures nearby.

Denison is not the only university with a bird problem.

As campuses grow both in size and population, facilities departments must frequently consider, plan for, and respond to various species of flora and fauna on their campuses, Michael Fischer writes for EAB's Facilities Forum. Of these, perhaps the most consistent and widespread concern involves flocks of birds.

Like Denison, some institutions are creating innovative solutions to their bird problems. At the University of Pittsburgh, for example, facilities leaders teamed up with local ornithologists from the National Aviary to help manage a large flock of persistent crows. Facilities invested in mobile sound units ($602 each) that repeatedly produced the coos of the crows’ natural predator, the great horned owl. While this hasn’t driven the crows off campus entirely, it has allowed facilities to herd them into areas of campus less frequented by students and visitors, Fischer writes.

Meanwhile, facilities leaders at Pennsylvania State have developed a crow relocation program that uses pyrotechnic bangers and screamers to relocate the flocks. These fireworks are launched by trained professionals, and campus residents are informed about each location in advance of the noise-making activities (Kovac, Columbus Dispatch, 1/23; AP/New York Times, 1/23).

Keep reading: 3 ways bird flocks fluster facilities—and how campuses are fighting back


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