For years, I dreamed of a fenced backyard where my darling dogs could romp in the sunlight, torment squirrels and dig to China as nature intended. Translation: I could throw the mutts out without even getting out of my pajamas, before they irrigate the Berber. (Sounds harsh, but walking them 27 times a day gets old.)
No sooner did I move to my fenced paradise and release the hounds when the first harbinger of doom weighed in. “Watch out for the vultures,” the neighbor I hadn’t met yet shouted through the fence. “It’s lunchtime.”
“It’s OK. These are live animals,” I yelled back.
“Honey, beach vultures don’t wait around,” she said. “They like fast food.”
My brain struggled to wrap itself around the idea that flocks of carnivorous birds began fortifying their positions the moment Two Men and a Truck backed into my driveway. Hitchcock warned us about that.
That didn’t sit well, so I dismissed my neighbor as a nut. She could be one of those women who allegedly spent 94 hours in labor with a 13-pound breach baby delivered by cesarean during a hurricane by a roofer with a chainsaw. At least that’s what her kind likes to tell newly pregnant females as they run away screaming.
So I remained calm until a happier-sounding neighbor complimented my 9-pound mutt. “The vultures just love them,” he added. “Those are snack size. They just need a little ketchup.”
That’s when I realized the feathers strewn around my yard didn’t belong to sparrows. Above my head, a black, winged monster was zeroing in on my dogs from a tree.
“There’s no ketchup here,” I screamed at the invader, waving my arms and leaping around, clanking pot lids together in a vain attempt to scare it off. The bird didn’t flinch a feather. My dogs, however, ran inside and hid.
Frantic, I turned to the Internet for advice from genuine vulture victims who had experience keeping killer birds away. They recommended:
Setting off fireworks around the clock
Dangling a dead colleague (of the vulture) in effigy
Hanging lots of shiny CDs from branches
Shaking vulture-bearing trees at least twice a day
Intriguing ideas, but there’s a downside. The guy who tested M-80s as a bird deterrent also set his home on fire. And the birds came back before the fire trucks got there.
Hanging CDs is harmless, but the movement that’s supposed to scare the birds off makes some of them want to hang around and invite their friends.
Pecking the CDs becomes a game, so the more, the merrier. The icing on the cake is watching you try to shake their tree, which is 70 feet tall and 8 feet around. Now that’s a total entertainment package.
No matter what you do, the birds may decide to stay. Just ask the Virginia man who woke up one day to hundreds of vultures staking claim to his yard. He can’t have them removed, because they’re federally protected. So he’s sharing his patio with 200 winged guests and not doing much outdoor grilling.
Anyway, I came up with my own deterrent. It took only 90 minutes to wrap my dog up in his own anti-bird aluminum foil vest. It’s the same principle as the CDs, but now my dog is the shiny moving object. My daughter says it won’t work unless the vultures are afraid of furry baked potatoes.
I’d argue, but the birds have been asking for sour cream and chives.
Jan A. Igoe is a writer from the Grand Strand, where tourists are welcome. But vultures? Not so much. Guard your puppies, and if you see vultures headed for the beach, please warn Jan at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.