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Acorn woodpeckers doing their thing: Does Rossmoor really have to kill them?

By Gary Bogue
Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 8:24 am in Acorn woodpeckers, Acorns, Rossmoor Retirement Community.

Acorn Woodpecker S.O.S. art by Kat Mulkey, Lafayette
acornart

If you haven’t been following my daily columns about Walnut Creek’s Rossmoor Retirement Community vs. the acorn woodpeckers, you can catch yourself up here on my Friday (Nov. 14) and Sunday (Nov. 16) columns: http://www.contracostatimes.com/garybogue

Basically, a family of acorn woodpeckers have been pecking holes in the upper reaches of a couple of the retirement community’s resident buildings. Rossmoor has obtained a depredation permit from the feds which allows them to shoot 50 acorn woodpeckers.

This, of course, may resolve the problem in the short-term, but long-term, it will start all over again next spring when a new family of woodpeckers moves in.

The end result will be who-knows-how-many acorn woodpeckers get killed over the next who-knows-how-many years? Also, what is the impact to the local ecosystem when you wipe out 50 acorn woodpeckers, a cornerstone species? (Cornerstone species means the holes it drills in trees provide housing, habitat  and food for a large number of species of wildlife in the oak woodland areas around Mount Diablo and beyond.)

As you can see from my columns, I  have suggested a number of what I consider to be better solutions that don’t need the woodpeckers to be killed. My many readers have also responded with some excellent solutions.

Do you have any suggestions? You can add them under comments below. There’s got to be a better way! Let’s have a round of applause for Kat Mulkey of Lafayette, Calif., who e-mailed me the beautiful piece of art above of an “Acorn Woodpecker S.O.S.” Thanks Kat! /Gary

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No Responses to “Acorn woodpeckers doing their thing: Does Rossmoor really have to kill them?”

  1. lisa schacht Says:

    My neighbor across the street from me is having his roof torn off today. We live on the other side of the hill from Rossmoor and have a huge Oak tree/house next to this neighbors home which has been full of woodpeckers for years. They have used his house to put all their holes in to, perhaps that is why the roof is now being re-done. What can I suggest to him to help keep the birds from pecking his new roof/house?
    And does Brian need a show of people volunteers to help the Rossmoor cause?

  2. Mike McAfee Says:

    Would a non-lethal proven and harmless alternative interest anyone? We use Concord grape juice and soy oil in a misting system and causes bird to leave the area. All the information is on our web page however the simple explaination is that birds don’t really smell. All birds have a trigeminal nerve in the mucus membrane in their beak. Our system puts just enough mist in the air to cause birds a temporay discomfort and they will leave the area and look for a new home.
    If anyone has questions our toll free line is 866-890-7772.

    Thanks-Mike

  3. Patti B Says:

    Hi Gary,

    Brian Murphy’s idea for the woodpeckers sounds so simple, sensible & humane. I wonder why humans have such a desire to kill?

  4. Jack Cutter Says:

    Re: Acorn Woodpeckers here in Rossmoor. Rather than shooting these wonderful birds I will donate a $200 case(12 quarts) of Ropel, a spray repellant which should keep the birds in the oak trees and away from houses for a year or so. It comes in quart spray cans, it’s nontoxic, harmless, but tastes awful. Only catch is: I can’t climb ladders to apply it. Any volunteers?
    Jack Cutter, Pacific Waters Foundation.
    PS: I have no connection with the firm which makes “Rople” other than being a customer.

  5. Jack Cutter Says:

    I am not sure what you want me to do. Jack Cutter

  6. Soccer Mom Says:

    Hi Gary,
    I’m a new blogger in the area, focusing on Walnut Creek. I recently posted a blog about seeing all these dead squirrels around my WC neighborhood. I just saw another one, lying in the street. Any thoughts as to what’s going on?

    Here’s the blog: http://crazyinsuburbia.blogspot.com/2008/10/dead-squirrels-around-my-neighborhood.html

  7. Jackie Bobrosky Says:

    As a wildlife rehabilitator with the Lindsay Wildlife Museum and the species manager for woodpeckers, I’ve been alarmed at the recent Department of Fish & Game permitting process to allow killing Acorn woodpeckers. Reading your columns of late and in particular the comments this morning (Tuesday), I agree with Tom Butt saying that we don’t have a woodpecker problem rather that we have an architect, developer, contractor problem. Coupled with an agency that is understaffed and overwhelmed, you have an easier path obtain a permit to shoot whatever is perceived as a nuisance.It’s always about money and wildlife pays for it. I would bet that if you look around this beautiful area, the habitat that Acorn woodpeckers prefer has been cleared out. After all, tall dead trees aren’t so pretty. But that’s where the Acorn woodpeckers, as well as many other bird species, like to hang out. They also search for areas that include more than one type of oak in the event one has a poor acorn production year, another will have an abundant year. This means that they don’t migrate, but that they move around according to their favorite food source, the acorn. You know, they also eat insects! Imagine!
    I believe that if we educate the homeowners’ associations about the intelligence and unusual lifestyle of this special woodpecker they will be receptive to alternative solutions. After all, last year it was turkeys, this year woodpeckers, next the mountain lions and eventually, um, each other? Since the native americans used Acorn woodpecker scalps for headdress decor and trading, it appears to me that the Rossmoorite culture with the cooperation of the Dept of Fish & Game is going backwards.
    Brian Murphy has an excellent suggestion to substitute the granary tree and we won’t know if it will work unless we try it. I will do whatever I can to support the cooperative existence of wildlife and humans.

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