SEQUOYAH COUNTY (KFSM ) – A problem involving birds, and what they leave behind after they eat, has cost the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thousands of dollars.
But a four-legged solution has walked into the situation at the Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam, and things are a lot cleaner now.
A Border Collie named Ellie has been scaring away the birds for the past few months, and the Corps decided to purchase her because she’s been so helpful.
Operator Jeremy Philpot, who has worked there for eight years, said thousands of birds used to flock to the lock and dam. The birds are mainly double-crested cormorants, and ring-billed gulls.
“You couldn't even see concrete,” Philpot said. “I mean it was just all birds. Birds on top of the canopies, birds on the equipment, birds on the railing, birds on the walkway, birds on the piers -- just everywhere.”
And they left behind a costly mess. The Tulsa District of the Corps estimates $10,000 worth of damage is done each year, because of metal corrosion, and ammonia seeping into concrete. Last year alone, $27,000 was spent on labor to clean it all up. The problem has persisted for decades, according to the Corps.
Employees have tried other tactics to keep the birds away, like bird spikes, but nothing has been as helpful as Ellie scaring the birds away.
“Thousands and thousands of dollars over the years, and nothing has been successful to get rid of them,” Philpot said.
Philpot is also Ellie’s dog handler, and said even though they just started working with her last October, she’s making a difference.
“Last year we had an estimated 11,000 pounds of bird droppings on our spillway, and this year there's just a few speckles out there,” he said. “You mention birds and she'll perk her ears up and start looking. She knows what that word means.”
The two-year-old has a lot of energy, and Philpot said as silent predator, she rarely barks.
“She’ll kind of creep up on them, or sometimes she'll just dart right towards them and get them to move,” he said.
The companion has made Philpot's job more much more enjoyable.
“Going from walking in two inches of it, to walking on concrete again is proof enough for me that something's working,” he said.
Ellie lives at the lock and dam, and because there is always an operator there, she is never alone.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Ellie cost $3,500, a fraction of the cost to clean everything up. The Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam is the first organization within the Corps to purchase a dog for a problem with birds.