County plans to use vulture effigy, enforce violations to remedy animal carcass feeding problem

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, March 2, 2021

SALISBURY — A vulture effigy will be deployed to remedy a problem that has plagued a neighborhood in Rowan County for several months.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Monday heard an update from staff about the county’s ongoing response to complaints about a resident feeding pieces of a deer carcass to their dogs in plain view of neighbors. That feeding practice has led to the congregation of dozens of vultures in a neighborhood in the Beck Road area who have taken to feeding on the leftover bones.

Although commissioners at a meeting last month tabled a vote on creating a new ordinance that would outlaw the practice, they instructed county staff to explore other ways to fix the problem.

One solution will be to hang a vulture effigy, complete with real vulture feathers, from a structure in the neighborhood in order to deter scavengers from flocking to the yard where the feeding has occurred. 

“The way this works is that if you hang the effigy upside down in an area that is highly visible to the area to the vultures they won’t come in,” said Bob Pendergass, director of Animal Services. “This is a warning to them that this is a bad place to get food.”

The vulture effigy will be loaned to the county by a wildlife agency at no cost, Rowan County Attorney Jay Dees said. It is scheduled to arrive and be deployed later this week. Dees said that the county hopes to work with the homeowner to hang the vulture effigy on their property, but said that he imagines a neighbor would be willing to help them hang the warning sign as well.

As a part of its response, the county sent representatives from the Health Department, Animal Services and Environmental Services to inspect the property. Dees was among the representatives who visited the property and said that the sight of 12-14 vultures gathered in the yard was “startling.”

The visits from department representatives yielded two notices of public health nuisances and one warning citation for waste disposal. 

The Health Department found the conditions of the property, located at 175 Beck Road, constituted a public health nuisance pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 130A-19 and 153A-140. 

“What I’ve determined is that the practice of regularly feeding animal parts in a densely populated residential area is a public health nuisance,” Dees said.

As a result, the homeowner is ordered to abate the public health nuisance by ceasing to feed their dogs pieces of animal carcasses. An administrative hearing on the violations and order is set for Feb. 12. The homeowner will have 30 days after the administrative hearing to appeal the order to a superior court, Dees said. The homeowner will be mailed a notice of the public health nuisances and a copy will also be hand delivered.

The homeowner was also issued a warning citation for violating Rowan County’s Solid Waste Ordinance and will have 14 days to remedy the situation by removing the “solid and bulky waste accumulations” on their property or face risk of a fine of up to $500. The county will also be able to remove the waste accumulation itself if it’s not removed by the homeowner in that two-week window.

Commissioner Craig Pierce pointed to the lengths the county has had to undergo to remedy the situation as a reason why the ordinance outlawing the practice should have been passed.

“Look at the cost — all because we don’t have something that prevents him or that he could be cited for feeding his animals body parts,” Pierce said. “I don’t get this.”

County Manager Aaron Church said that it was “going to take time” to fix the problem.

That worries Pierce. 

“My concern is that, like (Church) said, it’s going to take time to get us back to square one,” Pierce said. “What happens if this happens again? How long will it take us to revert back? How long before a child gets hurt?”

Chairman Greg Edds questioned whether the county would’ve had to take such extensive measures if the proposed ordinance outlawing the feeding had been in place.

“Typically with any enforcement mechanism, there’s going to be a timeline of issuing a notice of violation, administrative hearing, actual walk on the property enforcement,” Dees said. “It just depends on the type of authority we use. There’s some lag, you just don’t know how long depending on the statute.”

Edds asked that county staff alert the neighbors of the property in question about the county’s recent efforts. If they don’t get word from the county, they’ll likely know once they see the vulture effigy.