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Turkey vultures continue to create dissension

April 13, 2018 – The turkey vulture population continues to be a matter of contention between some Excelsior Springs residents and the Parks and Recreation Board. The recent disappearance of at least two of the effigies hanging in a local park has caused even more controversy.

As previously reported by The Standard, Parks and Rec made the decision to hang the bodies of dead turkey vultures, referred to as effigies, throughout East Valley Park, to deter the roosting of the large birds. Parks and Recs stated that there had been an influx of complaints about the smell. A group of citizens pushed back against the decision for several reasons, believing that, as a designated natural area, the birds have a right to roost. Commentary on social media grew heated.

In response, the turkey vultures were brought up at the most recent Parks and Rec board meeting, which was unattended by anyone who had initially voiced dissent against the decision.

“We were surprised,” Williams said, in regard to the lack of attendance.

Kerry Jones is one of those who have been vocal in their opposition to the attempts to move the turkey vultures out of the park. When asked why, after speaking so openly against the hanging of effigies and the philosophy behind it, he said that, while only speaking for himself, there was nothing to “oppose” on the agenda put forth by Park and Rec.

“There was no action to be taken, what has been done was done legally,” he explained.

Jones has kept a blog detailing the actions taken by Parks and Rec, and his own beliefs. To that end, he submitted a letter to the editor at The Standard, which is printed in full on page 8 in the hard copy of the newspaper.

Of particular surprise to Jones, as well as to Excelsior Springs resident Cathy Johnson, was that both he and Johnson were mentioned by name at the last meeting, as evidenced in the minutes published online by Parks and Rec. In part, the minutes read:

“The turkey vultures seem to have relocated at this point. They do circle the trees, but do not land. It looks like three out of the five turkey vultures that were hung in the trees are now missing. Sherri Branson-Hurt reported she saw a post on Facebook between Cathy Johnson and Kerry Jones that were discussing locating the birds along the ridge in the woods. As permits are required to handle these birds, this is a federal offense and the Department will be working with Police to file a report.”

“I was rather shocked at the wording, though I think even the suspicion is rather laughable,” Johnson said. She says she simply asked Jones, in a Facebook post, how close to the paved trail the dead birds had been hung.

“And no, I didn’t tamper with the dead birds, nor did Joseph,” Johnson said, referring to her husband. “I can’t even walk that far, let alone climb trees.” She added that she is aware that the actions the Parks and Rec board took were legal, and to mess with the dead birds would have been “stupid.” She also said she wasn’t even aware of how many birds were hung in the park, either. Johnson mentioned that she once served on the board of Parks and Rec in Excelsior Springs herself.

Jones also denies having touched the birds, and said he was “appalled” by the meeting minutes.

“I was appalled, not so much that someone said it – people say petty things all the time, unfortunately –  but that they actually put it in writing. While they didn’t actually say that Cathy and I took the birds, I felt they came so close to doing so that they were bordering on the limits of the libel and slander laws,” Jones said.

In response, Parks and Rec Director Nate Williams believes that since the discussion in question took place on the very public platform of Facebook, there was no need to not mention names.

“The discussion of the Board was about the missing effigies, and a Board member mentioned she saw a conversation on Facebook about locating the effigies,” Williams stated. “That thread was removed, but the Board member was just stating she saw it. If it is on social media, it is public, which is why they didn’t feel a need to leave names out of the discussion.”

Johnson agreed that Facebook is a public forum, although she found it strange to see her name in the minutes of a meeting she didn’t attend.

“I did think it was weird to see my name in the minutes, but social media is public, and there’s nothing wrong with expressing a concern,” she said.

For their part, Parks and Rec have not  yet filed an official report with the police department.

“We have contacted the police, but have not filed an official report with them,” Williams said. “If they were cut down, that is vandalism to park property, which would be the reason for the police to be involved.  Also, a person is not supposed to handle the effigies without the proper permits that I have.”

Johnson said at this point, she wouldn’t see any reason to remove the dead birds.

In the end, Parks and Rec stands behind their decision to hang the dead birds in order to deter the live ones.

“Other options discussed with the USDA were not a good fit for our situation,” Williams stated. “Lethal removal, invasive sounds (that would) scare every animal…effigies are the least invasive of all strategies, and studies show it works the best to only relocate the turkey vulture species needed.”

Furthermore, Williams said the public’s response, for the most part, has been overwhelmingly positive. And he states there is no reason for East Valley Park to be in danger of losing its designation as a natural area, which was put into place, he explained, to prevent development.

As for Johnson, she is resigned to the idea – she believes what is done, is done, and at this point, keeping more effigies out of the park, or removing the ones that still hang, would have no impact on the turkey vultures, which have, by all accounts, already moved on.

“Really, I don’t see the point if someone did remove them. The deed was done,” she said. “On the other hand, I don’t believe they should be there, for many reasons. They’re disturbing, and far too close to where children play.”

As far as the missing effigies, Johnson believes that nature took care of it.

“I imagine a raccoon or an opossum took them down, in search of a free meal,” she said.

Featured image by Kerry Jones

By Samantha Kilgore • samantha@leaderpress.com

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2 Responses to Turkey vultures continue to create dissension

  1. Kerry Jones Reply

    April 15, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Just for the record, Mr. Williams seems to have missed the point. I wasn’t appalled that they used my name, they can use it all they want if they do it respectfully. I was appalled at the thinly veiled implication and threat that were linked to my name and Cathy’s.

  2. Kerry Jones Reply

    April 16, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Furthermore, the Facebook post that was referred to by one of the board members has NOT been removed, it’s still there for all the world to see, but says absolutely nothing about moving the birds, it was simply a response to a question about where they were.

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