A Walnut Creek retirement community where deer nibble on lawns and wild turkeys strut across the golf course is calling in a hit man to shoot woodpeckers that drill into homes to stash acorns.
Two Rossmoor homeowner associations are bringing in a federal hunter soon after receiving U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits to kill as many as 50 acorn woodpeckers on condition that nonlethal methods are tried first.
Some residents are upset, but the homeowner groups contend that they have installed nets, hawk squawk boxes, owl decoys and battery-operated spiders, and yet homes are still getting drilled by the birds.
"People here don't want to shoot them, but after spending eight years and $170,000 without success, the homeowner groups don't know what else to do," said Maureen O'Rourke, a Rossmoor spokeswoman. "The birds can do a lot of damage."
She spoke on behalf of Rossmoor maintenance managers, who did not return several phone messages Thursday and Friday.
Some residents are unhappy about the plan to whack the woodpeckers, which are black and white with red on the top of their heads.
"We should find a way to live with wildlife without killing them," said Molly Mullikin, a Rossmoor resident. "I don't think the homeowners have done all they can to avoid killing the woodpeckers."
The shooting is expected to start within a week or two once the hunter, who works as a nuisance wildlife controller for the U.S. Department
The license to kill — called a depredation permit — was granted in June and is good for one year under federal rules aimed at balancing the needs of wildlife and protecting human crops and property, said Al Donner, a spokesman for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
Acorn woodpeckers, which are highly communal creatures that will raise other acorn woodpeckers' young, depend heavily on acorns for food.
The permit allows killing by a shotgun, pellet gun, or snap trap. If Rossmoor wants another permit this coming summer, the federal agency will reassess the situation and what non-lethal measures were taken, Donner said.
One option is to erect a decoy tree for the woodpeckers to drill into rather than into people's homes.
Duke Robinson, a Rossmoor resident, said he has mixed feelings about the woodpeckers. The birds drilled many holes into the side of his hillside house before moving onto other wood targets about three years ago.
"I don't like the idea of killing the woodpeckers, but I don't know else can be done," he said. "It's a dilemma with no easy solution."
To protect Robinson's house, his homeowners association installed sound-activated spiders, which scared away the birds, he said. But when the spider batteries went dead, the homeowners association did not replace them, Robinson added.
Gary Beeman, a Lafayette biologist who hires himself out to control wildlife problems, said he has used the spiders to scare off woodpeckers with "90 percent" success at many homes.
Beeman said Rossmoor maintenance managers told him that it required too much labor for someone to climb up a ladder to change the batteries of spiders mounted in high places on buildings. However, Beeman said he has set up spiders so they can be easily lowered on a string for easy battery replacement.
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