Logan’s owner worries about bird flu risk after finding dead vultures

Logan, Utah — A homeowner hoped Monday that a solution would emerge to a potential bird flu risk in his garden as he warned others of the potential risk.

Bruce Jorgensen said the red-headed vultures that have resided in the tall trees behind his house for more than a decade have always left a hell of a mess.

“They poop a lot,” he shrugged. “It’s been painful, but this year it’s biohazardous.”

Jorgensen said he was already aware of an outbreak of bird flu when he found two of the dead birds on his property last week. He said tests later determined that the deceased turkey vultures had the disease.

According to Jorgensen, wildlife officers and health officials warned him not to touch any of the birds and provided him with instructions on how to mitigate risks on the property.

Because red-headed vultures are considered protected wildlife, however, under the jurisdiction of US Fish and Wildlife, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources confirmed that officers could not remove the birds and could only suggest how the trees potentially “mist” and occasionally help in this process.

“Yeah, put some balloons,” Jorgensen agreed.

He said he bought a few, including one that said “I’m sorry,” and threw them into the trees to no avail.

“It’s just not viable to put a balloon that high in a forest and have it magically stay up there to scare the birds away,” Jorgensen told KSL 5.

Jorgensen estimated that up to 3 dozen red-headed vultures took up residence in the trees. Although he regularly and carefully cleaned his garden, much of the area under the trees on Monday evening was still heavily littered with bird droppings.

Since bird flu is often transmitted through faeces, Jorgensen said he was concerned about the lingering health risk.

“Everywhere you look there are poop stains and the smell of Clorox,” he said.

Utah’s DWR guidelines stated that while the current strain of bird flu posed a “low risk” to humans, it was still transmissible to humans, as evidenced by a recent case in Colorado.

The division urged people not to touch dead birds if they see them. If they see a group of dead birds (5 or more), including waterfowl, shorebirds, wild turkeys, quails, raptors and scavengers found near waterfowl habitats, these individuals should contact a local DWR office or call 801-538-4700.

Additional guidance from the CDC included additional information on what to do to stay safe.

“My preferred option would be to euthanize them,” he said. “I don’t know if you can come to downtown Logan and start shooting at them.”

Jorgensen said that with the birds protected status, he was unsure of the solution, but hoped a solution would emerge.

“Wherever they sit, they contaminate,” Jorgensen said.

Sharon P. Juarez