City official comments on bird deaths

Broken dumpster lids and a gravel roof seem to be a few of the causes for the growing number of seagulls populating the Save-a-lot plaza. At Tuesday’s workshop for the Common Council meeting, Director of Public Works Randy Woodbury shared information that he had received from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in regards to the penalties of poisoning any migratory birds.

“Poisoning of a migratory bird is a violation of international treaty,” Woodbury stated. “It can be fined up to $15,000 or up to six months in jail. Illegally, using fungicide or insecticide to do that is an even bigger fine, up to $100,000 or up to a year in jail.” The DEC is currently working on the case and have sent people down to collect bird carcasses for testing.

Woodbury, at the Common Council meeting later, urged the public not to touch any dead animals that they come across. “We only have a few people who are trained to deal with dead animals, mostly the parks division,” Woodbury said. “Dead animals in the road are the expertise of our animal control officer and also the City Hall cleaner, as he has special training because he works in several areas of the police department. We keep our people away and we ask everyone to please stay away from dead animals, especially if we have something happening to the birds over in that location. Our police department is working hand-in-hand with Environmental Enforcement, a division of the DEC, to try to get to the bottom of this.”

Woodbury’s concern is not just for the primary targets of a potential poisoning, if that is happening, but for secondary targets, such as dogs, cats and children.

Glenn Christner, city of Dunkirk building inspector, along with Mayor Wilfred Rosas, met with plaza owner Jeff Jenkins Tuesday, to discuss this growing issue.

“I’ve been in contact with him (Jenkins) since April, trying to come up with creative solutions to this problem,” Christner shared. “The birds are attracted to the large roof, which has gravel on it, they get mean when you go near their nests, so we’re looking to implement effective and safe seagull deterrent systems, used elsewhere in the city, once the fledglings are out, around August.”

In a statement to the OBSERVER Thursday from the NYS DEC Public Affairs Office, Kristen Davidson states that “New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is investigating reports of dead birds in Dunkirk, first received on July 9. The dead birds were young Ring-billed Gulls hatched this summer. The birds were found in a parking lot at the Save-a-Lot Store in Dunkirk, and had died from car strikes as they loitered in the parking lot, as is typical of this species.”

Davidson went on to share that these gulls have been found dead in other gathering places, such as the shoreline and along streets in Dunkirk. She says that this mortality, referred to as post-fledging mortality, occurs annually, when the young gulls leave the safety of their nesting area as juveniles and are no longer being cared for by their parents. However, it should be noted that a number of the dead birds being found, are on the roof of the plaza, seldom used parking lots and in the grass.

The city has notified the Director of Environmental Health for Chautauqua County, who’s handled these things before and is working closely with other agencies to help as well.