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Jan 04 2020

Scaring the Egrets on San Antonio’s Bird Island–Noise Cannons Fire Away!

(San Antonio, Texas)

Letter to the Editor

Author: Alesia Garlock, Wildlife Environmental Advocate

Cannons Fire Away!

If you are like me and afraid of fireworks you might want to rethink being anywhere in the vicinity of Elmendorf Lake Park in San Antonio over the next several months. The residents living around the park, after having lived here for years are in for a firework show that will not be welcomed as a Fourth of July show (some residents may fall into a lower income bracket). With some residents shouting for action, screaming Environmental Injustice and a possible violation of a NEPA.

The plan to deter birds from flying over the base is a joint effort by the City of San Antonio and the Joint Base to rid the park of the birds in question. Of which the Cattle Egret seem to be the species on Target! According to a source with information provided by JBSA, there were 8 bird strikes attributed to Cattle Egrets dating back to 2010. None were major disasters. On an average of 50 bird strikes that occurred each year for the past 10 years, equaling 500 bird strikes, the Cattle Egrets were responsible for 8. According to JBSA Kelly field, only 5% of Bird Strikes result in damages. Furthermore, the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH program, indicates that most Kelly Field bird strikes are due to doves, meadowlarks, grackles, bats, falcons, and, on occasion, vultures.          

The important question is:  why are the cattle egrets seen as a problem?                                                                             Residents are wondering, does the Parks Overlay plan for a gazebo on the island suggest another motive?

December 2nd was the start of removal of all vegetation from “Bird Island” and harassment with lasers. The next step is for the use of Noise cannons and Pyrotechnic devices. This will place anyone within a 2mile radius of the park in the line of so-called fire while they will be subjected to noise making devices and possibly flying objects along with the birds.              

According to OSHA’s Safety Sheet, “Pest control pyrotechnics are specialized explosive devices used to disperse nuisance wild animals without injuring them. Common types include screamer siren or bird banger cartridges fired from a launch pistol and shellcrackers fired from a 12-gauge break-action shotgun. All of these contain high explosives and must be handled with extreme care to prevent injury or damage to property. All pyrotechnics, including those with fuses, are regulated by state and local laws and by stringent federal controls. According to the ATF not all Pyrotechnics are considered Explosive. Confirmation from Packaging information would confirm whether the products in use are included on the ATF’s list of explosives.

With fingers pointing at Cattle Egrets, Deemed an Aircraft hazard for flocks flying over the base’s flight line and threats of plane crashes and crew members put in jeopardy. Residents are asking if the public has been given all the Facts.  The city included the International airport at the first meeting for Elmendorf Egrets. The FAA’s Wildlife Strike Database provides a close look at species involved in Wildlife strikes at the San Antonio International Airport. Of which I only found one Cattle Egret involved in a Bird Strike since 2017. The wildlife involved in BASH or Bird strikes includes a multitude of species such as Common Nighthawk, Mourning Dove, a Great Horned Owl, Barn Swallows, Hawks and Rock Pigeons to Brazilian free-tailed bats. A few Striped skunks were also listed, surprisingly.

E-coli they scream! Yes, we have E-coli in our world. With wildlife depositing over half of the bacteria into the environment. And, you can’t just blame the birds with over 2 Million dogs living and contributing feces in San Antonio.                                                           Where beyond your grass, it has been estimated that a single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness, and serious kidney disorders in humans. Don’t get me started on the worms.

So, as Cannons fire away with noise that sounds like fireworks to some, gunshots to others, we will see the last of “Bird Island”. The Island which is now devoid of trees looking much like a lunar landscape. But wait, one vital fact has been omitted. That missing fact is that the base is part of what is considered the Central Migratory Flyway zone. According to an online source, a “flyway is a flight path used by large numbers of birds while migrating between their breeding grounds and their overwintering quarters. The flyways can be thought of as wide arterial highways to which the migratory routes of different species are tributaries.” Aside from loss of a species due to Climate change and continued destruction of nesting habitats by humans, the Birds will continue to fly through San Antonio. Migratory Egrets, and other species.       

Alesia Garlock

Wildlife/Environmental Advocate

I have monitored and documented the nesting of Egrets and Herons in one San Antonio park for the last five years since relocating from Rockport, TX.

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