Colorado Town Finds Itself in Real-Life Hitchcock Movie

By National Center for Public Pol... | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

(Editor's Note: The following is the 57th of 100 stories regarding government regulation from the book Shattered Dreams, written by the National Center for Public Policy Research. will publish an additional story each day.)

As if they were living in the famous Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds," the residents of the Mapleton Mobile Home Park in Boulder, Colorado are under siege by a flock of nearly 4,000 European starlings. What's worse than anything Hitchcock could have imagined, however, is that the city government is not allowing the residents to fight back. Over the past decade, four months out of the year, the starlings roost in a stand of cottonwood trees that tower over the city-owned mobile home park. Officially called Sturnus vulgaris , the Audubon Society describes European starlings as "messy, quarrelsome, aggressive and noisy."

In Boulder, the starlings have been seen chasing animals as large as deer and foxes from the Mapleton property. But it's not only the hostile nature of the birds that angers residents. The average bird excretes 1.5 inches of droppings on Mapleton per night. Some droppings fall from as high as eight stories, and the bird dung corrodes car paint, destroys patios and decks, ruins gardens and generally causes the area to smell horribly. Rick Hernandez, a Mapleton resident who is awaiting a lung transplant, told the Los Angeles Times that he keeps three air-filtration machines running constantly, burns incense, regularly pours bleach on his deck and uses a personal oxygen tank to help him breathe amidst the dried dung and feathers left by the starlings.

Mary Becker, a 78-yearold handicapped diabetic, calls herself "a prisoner in my own home" because she can no longer use her home's wheelchair ramp due to the accumulated bird excrement on it. Despite previous attempts to scare off the birds with fireworks and other noisemakers, city officials are now prohibiting the 200 residents of Mapleton from trying to move the birds themselves. Boulder Assistant Director of Housing John Pollak explains: "We are certainly not going to kill the birds. No one is interested in cutting down the trees. We are exploring options for encouraging the birds to move."

City officials are also exploring the possibility of making the entire city of Boulder a bird sanctuary - something that would leave residents at the mercy of the birds (Boulder already mandates that pet owners be reclassified as "pet guardians"). Mapleton resident Debbie Feustel disputes the logic behind the proposal, saying, "The city talks about a bird sanctuary, but what about us having a sanctuary in our own homes?"

Source: The Seattle Times

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