BULL SHOALS, Ark. -- It's perfect for a nature documentary, but a huge flock of vultures hanging around Bull Shoals Dam for about the past month is also causing some headaches. They're a bother because of what they leave behind. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now waging a battle of the buzzards.
The soaring birds can be a beautiful sight.
"We always see quite a few, but we have never seen the kind of numbers they're talking about," said Marion County resident Ed Davis on Monday.
Davis made the drive to Bull Shoals Dam just to visit the vultures.
"Not much happens around here, so this is a big time deal for us!" Davis said.
It kind of is a big deal. The federal government is trying to fight off the flock.
"We've always had a few here, but they invaded us in force. There's probably 1,200 to 1,500 vultures when they're all here," says Bruce Caldwell, supervisory natural resource biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The problem is the buzzards are causing damage. First, they went after workers' vehicles.
"They were stripping off windshield wiper blades and the door insulation around the doors, and the guys that have stuff in the back of their pickups; they were getting in there and just having a good ole time," Caldwell said.
A bird net is now guarding the vehicles, but the dam itself still bears evidence of the black vulture invasion.
"Their droppings are very corrosive, and so their droppings are corroding the metal and the painted surfaces, and you can see over there on the dam, the streaks it causes- just ugly," Caldwell said.
The vultures' droppings have pretty much painted the bridge rails white. Now, the Corps is considering using bird spikes, metal spikes on top of the rail, to keep the birds from perching there.
But the Corps' first plan of attack was a propane canon that doesn't shoot a projectile, but simply makes a loud sound. Officials were first firing the canon every 16 minutes on a timer, but now, they're trying to vary the routine.
"We've found some success with it. We do move them, but we haven't moved them completely away from the structure," said Caldwell.
Officials figure they're sticking around, enjoying the same thing as the rest of us. "Beautiful day, this time in December. You gotta enjoy it while you can," says Davis.
Caldwell thinks the vultures must be enjoying the high perch, warm air drafting up from the concrete dam, and plenty of dead fish to eat. He figures a cold stretch will send them further south.