Egrets set to be evicted from Elmendorf Lake Park

Birds fly through Air Force flight paths

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The City of San Antonio will move forward with plans to relocate cattle egrets nesting in Elmendorf Lake Park to accommodate concerns by Joint Base San Antonio officials about birds getting sucked into their planes.

The military has been tracking the flight pattern of egrets for several years, but the concerns grew more intense about 3 years ago, according to the report by the 201 Air Base Safety Officer.

READ MORE: Groups working to figure out plan for habitat of migratory birds at 2 SA parks 

Tracking the birds' behavior, they noticed they fly through the flight path of Kelly Field in “flocks of 10-200, in successive waves with total number of 800-1000 for about an hour and a half in the morning and evening.”

According to a report by the city’s Director of Military and Veterans Affairs, an egret was sucked into the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon in late August.

No one was injured but the aircraft sustained anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million dollars in damages. 

Richard Perez was briefed about the plans at the Military Transformation Task Force meeting this week. He says the plans are very humane for the animals and have been delayed to ensure that all hatchlings are able to fly away before they begin. 

“We are doing it humanely. We're doing it under the supervision of the US Department of Agriculture which has purview over the birds,” Perez said. “We're going to move the birds relocate them through noise and some kind of things that move there to kind of scare them away.”

The city owns the park and will spend up to $30,000 modifying the habitat to keep the birds away.

The price is small in comparison to the $13 Billion dollars JBSA has in the local economy, said a city spokesperson.  The two-phase plan is to clear about 50 percent of the dead brush and debris from the island where they nest and the second phase is to install noise making and scaring devices.

Aleida Fuentes-Boles with Wildlife-Rescue.org is disappointed with the plans. 

“They're being forced to find a different place to live and how long will it be before someone else complains about this new place,” she said. 

She says the plan to remove the birds will not only affect the migratory birds but other ecosystems around the park.

“That will be a serious problem for these birds when their homes and habitats are destroyed. They will have nowhere to be, Fuentes-Boles said. "They will have to look for someplace else, so they will start looking for vegetation that is similar to this. They will start looking for water sources that are similar to this but unfortunately we don't know. Will there be deaths?

The city has letters of support from the U.S. Humane Society and the Woodlawn Lake Community Association to remove the egrets.

JBSA is working with the USDA on the efforts to remove the birds from the flight path because egrets are a federally protected species.

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