BEAR VALLEY SPRINGS, CA - A big bird problem has flown into a Kern County community. California Condors have swooped into Bear Valley Springs. In their wake they're leaving a pile of damage.
These condors are the largest bird in North America and an endangered species, protected at the state and federal level. Residents said they're fascinating to look at, but they feel like living in Bear Valley is for the birds.
"We were just awed by them," said Patricia Gibson, a Bear Valley Springs resident.
Many neighbors felt the same way as dozens of California Condors flew into Bear Valley Springs last summer.
"I thought they were fantastic. I thought I was just the luckiest person to see these birds up so close," said Fredericks.
Then the damage started.
"This year it's just been horrible for us," said Gibson.
The condors have covered porches in feces. They've destroyed door mats, nibbled on air conditioners, and picked apart roofs.
"Shingles, they will peck holes in your roof and pull out the insulation, and damage like that our insurance company will not reimburse us for," said Gibson.
To make matters worse, the birds flock in groups.
"We had about 30 of them," said Fredericks. "There was a point where we were afraid to leave our house because of what we would find when we would come back."
But, because the California Condor is endangered you can't do anything about it. If you do, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said you're looking at jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
"Now, my husband feels like we're being held hostage," said Gibson.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are only 417 left in the world, 66 in Southern California, and right now most are staying in Bear Valley Springs.
"There's quite a few using this area right now," said Josh Felch, Biological Science Technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Condor Conservation Program.
Bear Mountain is their natural roosting grounds, but biologists are trying to shoo them away from homes.
"Definitely do not want them on top of anybody's house or visiting human structures at all or coming into close contact with people because that could hurt them," said Felch.
This is why nearly every day biologists are coming out to Bear Valley Springs, scaring condors off houses, using tools like water guns and noise makers.
"Usually that does the trick," said Felch.
Felch said residents need to adjust to the condors just like they do other wildlife in the area, but take away attractants. He said eventually then the condors won't bother people.
But, residents complain they need a solution now.
"They're very, very helpful, but something needs to be done on a larger scale," said Gibson about the biologists.
"We can solve this," said Felch. "It is completely solvable and we're looking for a long-term solution."
If not soon, some residents said they'll have no choice but to fly the coop.
"We'll move. Yes definitely we'll move," said Gibson. "There's no way that we can live with the damage."
Right now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is encouraging residents to attach motion sensor sprinklers to their roofs to scare away the birds. The service is planning to have a community-wide meeting with residents to address the issue.