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In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Why The Everglades National Park Is Handing Out Anti-Vulture Kits

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Brian Henderson/Flickr
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Next time you go to the Everglades you'll have the option to pick up an anti-vulture kit.

The park is offering the kits so people can protect their cars against vultures during the winter months. The black vultures sometimes rip the rubber and vinyl parts--such as windshield wipers and sunroof seals--off of cars.

Curtis Morgan, environment reporter for the Miami Herald, writes that over the last five years the park has tried several tactics to get the birds to stop:

So this winter, the park is shifting to purely defensive tactics against the big birds, expanding a program that provides visitors at the most trouble-prone sites loaner “anti-vulture kits” consisting of blue plastic tarps and bungee cords. “It’s recognition on our part that they’re part of the park and we’re the intruders in their world,” said park wildlife biologist Skip Snow. “The vultures are doing what comes naturally.” Naturally, as in flying south for the winter and congregating in the Everglades. The car-munching, on the other hand, is a departure from the normal diet of the dead and decaying and a habit that largely perplexes scientists.

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Credit Dave Lundy/Flickr
The kits consist of a tarp and bungee cords.

Although scientists have studied the issue, they still cannot say for sure why the birds rip the rubber off vehicles.

What is known is that the large birds can do a lot of damage.

Adam Gelber, a consulting biologist and frequent Everglades angler, found that out early this winter when he took visiting scientists from California on a scenic tour of park waters, finding rare crocodiles, bald eagles and wake-riding dolphins. “It was a National Geographic kind of day in the park,” Gelber said. At least until he walked back to the Flamingo boat ramp. Vulture dung covered the hood of his GMC Yukon. Worse, just about every piece of rubber and plastic on his sunroof, windows and hood was ripped away and shredded. The insurance company paid $1,850 for the damage, he said — and that was before he discovered the birds had also apparently yanked out the seals on the bottom of the doors as well. “It took the guys from the insurance agency 10 or 15 minutes to even figure out how to code it,” said Gelber, who has since decided to invest in his own anti-vulture kit.

The park's vulture problems may be odd but they're not unique. Vultures have caused similar problems in several other states.

The loaner tarps were distributed at Anhinga Trail last year and expanded to Flamingo this winter.

The park's superintendent said the number of complaints has dropped since the park started offering the kits.

You can read Curtis Morgan’s full story here: http://hrld.us/X176oW