Last week, the city commission accepted a $20,332 bid from Terminix to encourage the vultures to move to another location.
Turkey vultures are a protected species, so the city can’t do anything that will harm them. Terminix plans to install low-voltage electric tracks around the tower to shock the birds without hurting them.
“I can appreciate the buzzards because most of them go to work every day,” City Commissioner Albertus Maultsby said during a meeting in September. “But we don’t need them sitting on our water tank.”
The Ledger of Lakeland reports the vultures took up residence on the water tower eight months ago. While they can’t harm the water supply, officials say they can damage the tower. Their urine and regurgitated fluids are corrosive and their sharp claws and beaks can damage surfaces.
City officials said they’ve tried almost everything to get rid of the vultures. They even installed a buzzer to scare them. But the birds got used to the noise, said Public Works Director John Deaton.
The staff also tried putting fake dead buzzards on the tower. But that didn’t work either.
Deaton said he’s got no idea why the vultures chose to make their home on the tower.
“People don’t want to see buzzards on their tower,” he said.
City Manager Ryan Leavengood said he doesn’t believe the tower has been damaged. But once the equipment is installed, they’ll have the tower cleaned and inspected.
“We’ve got a big investment with the tower,” Leavengood said. “This is an insurance policy.”
And maintaining it is expensive, even without the birds. The last time the city painted the water tower it cost about $20,000. And it costs about $500 to pressure clean it.
“As expensive as maintenance is, repair is even more expensive,” he said. “We’re just trying to stay ahead of it and keep it maintained as best we can.”