By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"What we found searching in the ground cover, we found one that was alive. We found several of the dead ones in the ground cover that they had missed. We put the dead birds in a sack, a plastic bag and sealed it and took it out to [a wildlife rehabilitation center] along with a baby bird in another box and took that out to them," she said.
Kathy Rogers, director of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Hutchins (where Heizelman took the living and dead birds) says it's not likely that the baby birds lived long if they weren't returned to within three feet of their original nesting place. The mothers, she says, probably would not have been able to find their own babies.
"If they had been dislodged or displaced, the appropriate thing would have been to collect all of the babies in a box and bring them to a rehabilitator, and then you don't have to worry about whether anybody ever found their family again," she says. "They were advised just to stick the nests back in the tree. Obviously, the person advising them to do that didn't know anything about it either."
Jack Moravits, landscape consultant with Hoover Landscaping, says the practice of netting trees to get rid of pesky birds is common and that he's never had this kind of complaint in 18 years of doing business. Nets are on trees all over Texas and are put into place all year long.
"This is a common practice everywhere, including the state capital. This is not something that's new," he says. "We're talking about grackles here. I don't know, there's a lot of birds out there. I'm as ecological conscious as the next guy, but grackles? To me, they are June bugs; there's plenty of them."
He says his company operates at the request of customers. If they want the nets put on the trees, his company puts the nets on the trees.
"We just did this exact same thing on a lot more trees during the same week in Denton County, I'm not going to say where, during the same period, and nobody called it in because it wasn't the city of Carrollton. But right now, the city of Carrollton has been spanked and spanked hard about the egret thing that now they are as gun shy as we are. We may take another look at where we do business."
Moravits says the number of injured birds was far lower than Heizelman says. He also says the "fiasco" happened in the interest of serving his customer's request to address the grackle problem.
"We regret causing any problem at all. It's customer service first. As far as when this is done, if that lady [Heizelman] called and wanted her trees pruned and netted, we are going to respond to that customer's needs so we would have done it for her as well as doing it for the hospital. As far as checking into all the environmental rights and wrongs, that's up to the property owner...We respect birds, I mean we respect everything to do with Texas or at least I do, I've got this big Texas thing going, but grackles, I'm sorry, I just don't have a lot of sympathy for them."
The hospital has no plans to do anything else about the birds for now, but it anticipates the problem will resolve itself by next year, Hittle says. The hospital won't be netting the trees again though. It won't have to. There won't be any trees to net. The trees, which have nearly reached their life expectancy of 20 years, Hittle says, are going to be chopped down to make room for a hospital expansion.
Hittle apologetically says the hospital was just trying to resolve a bird problem, not cause one.
"We were just trying to remove an odor and sanitary issue for us, and if we'd done it a month earlier, it wouldn't have been a problem," Hittle says. "It's more of...a lack of knowledge and bad timing issue on our part."