Guns, cover culls landfill gulls

Covering trash and shooting gulls has reduced flocks of several thousand birds flying over the Carson City landfill to a small flock of about 30.

Gulls at the landfill are, to put it mildly, a nuisance, said Marnell Heinz, Carson City deputy street operations chief.

Their eating habits - rummaging through garbage - pose a health risk, and with several thousand circling overhead, landfill customers were often bombarded by bird droppings.

Since Carson City's environmental health and street departments took over the landfill July 1, officials took steps to make sure thousands of birds would no longer haunt the dump. Driving around the landfill, Heinz carries with him a cap gun with noise-making caps to scare the birds. A propane cannon is used as well to create noise to discourage the birds from landing and feeding.

"Constant harassment," Heinz said, helps force the birds to change their eating habits.

However, the most effective deterrent is covering the garbage at night.

With the help of large equipment and a 120-foot by 120-foot tarp, garbage not covered with dirt is compacted and covered, minimizing, if not eliminating, the area in which gulls can feed.

"Old habits dies hard. What it doesn't allow them to do is sit up here and feed," Heinz said. "There is no landfill in American that doesn't try to control (birds)."

Shooting the gulls at the landfill may not be politically correct, but it is an occasional necessity from a health perspective, Heinz said. Birds fly off to Lake Lahontan and other area locals, potentially taking germs and bacteria with them.

The city holds both federal and state permits to kill up to 100 California and ring-billed gulls per year, said Ken Arnold, deputy environmental health director. In the month since Carson City officials took over, about 15 birds have been killed, he said.

City officials have spent the last month making significant improvements at the landfill, including grading roads, reducing the distance traveled to dump trash, covering and moving hazard trash piles and reducing the gull population.

City supervisors recently agreed to allow the environmental health and street departments to take over operation of the landfill for a year on the premise the two departments could do it cheaper than other companies that bid to operate the landfill.

City officials estimated they could run the landfill for between $1.3 million and $1.5 million a year. With the city operating the landfill, city officials hope the landfill can handle trash between 17 and 25 years. Without the life extension to the landfill, Carson trash would have to be transported elsewhere, which would equal a huge increase in landfill rates.


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