SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio held a public meeting on Feb. 11 at six p.m. in Providence Hall West Social Room at Our Lady of the Lake University to discuss the relocation of cattle egrets that are seen at Elmendorf Lake Park right next to the OLLU campus. The birds are being relocated in hopes of less harm to the community.
Public Engagement Officer at City of San Antonio Government and Public Affairs Department Ashley Alvarez said “The risk of collisions between large birds and military planes threatens the safety of military service members and the surrounding neighborhoods. Since 2010, eight bird strikes have been reported at Joint Base San Antonio Kelly Field. In 2018, there were 92 bird strikes at San Antonio International Airport and Stinson Municipal Airport. Additionally, the accumulation of bird feces has contributed to air quality issues and damage to the vegetation and natural habitat at Elmendorf Lake.”
Alvarez went on to explain why the birds pose a threat to the community. “They pose public safety and health threats. Bird strikes can cause planes to go down, which endangers the lives of community members if a plane crashes in a neighborhood and also endangers the lives of pilots who are flying the plane. Birds can spread E. coli, and diseases like histoplasmosis [a disease-causing respiratory issue]. These diseases are typically spread by bird to bird and have the potential to spread to humans through contact—handling, through fecal deposits often found on sidewalks and in grass and picked up through clothes and shoes.”
Although the relocation is set to begin in February and continue on periodically into April or May, a specific date has not been set.
Bird dispersal methods are set to be seen and heard around five to eight p.m. “The first step of mitigation is habitat modification which includes clearing out dead trees and brush and trimming tree canopy cover. After habitat modification, dispersal methods will take place. Some methods used to disperse egrets include pyrotechnics, lasers, spotlights and predatory bird calls. Several of the methods produce loud noises and flashing lights and may be heard or observed within a one-mile radius of Elmendorf Lake Park,” Alvarez said.
Our Lady of the Lake University student, Alexis Medrano expresses her concerns about the bird relocation.
The bird dispersal methods will be conducted by the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services Wildlife Services, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services Wildlife Services, Joint Base San Antonio and the City of San Antonio Parks & Recreation Department.