San Antonio declares victory in bid to move Brackenridge birds. Wildlife experts question that.

Environmental experts question where the birds will go — or if they'll just head to another part of the park.

click to enlarge A capture from a video shows a TK employee inside a mitigation zone shooting a loud explosive cartridge into the air directly behind the Witte Museum. - Courtesy Image / Alesia Garlock
Courtesy Image / Alesia Garlock
A capture from a video shows a TK employee inside a mitigation zone shooting a loud explosive cartridge into the air directly behind the Witte Museum.
After two months of trying to evict roosting egrets from Brackenridge Park, San Antonio city officials have declared their efforts to relocate the migratory birds a success.

“In partnership with [the U.S. Department of Agriculture], wildlife management efforts have been successful,” San Antonio Parks and Recreation spokesperson Connie Swan told the Current last week via email.

Environmental advocates — some of whom have been vocal opponents to the project — say they're skeptical the effort has amounted to much since there's no clear indication where the birds will go.

The latest mitigation effort — which closed off large swaths of the park and involved the use of balloons, explosives and other nuisances to score off the birds — is part of almost decade-long city effort to evict egrets from some of its public spaces.

Officials have cited public safety as their chief concern, noting, for example, the accumulation of bird feces on public amenities at Brackenridge.

A statement issued by the city in February said the project would wrap up at the end of March. However, barriers are still up across portions of the park and eyewitnesses said they saw workers unloading explosive charges in the park as recently as last week.

Swan told the Current that the city's goal is to force the birds to relocate to other locations without endangering them. The city has worked with state and federal wildlife officials, including the USDA.

click to enlarge The city’s bird-mitigation efforts at Brackenridge Park was expected to wrap up at the end of March. City officials are calling it a success, even though barriers still remain up in portions of the park. - Brandon Rodriguez
Brandon Rodriguez
The city’s bird-mitigation efforts at Brackenridge Park was expected to wrap up at the end of March. City officials are calling it a success, even though barriers still remain up in portions of the park.

Even officials with those cooperating agencies said it remains unclear where the relocated birds would find such a home.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Biologist Jessica Alderson said such a location may take years to find.

"This may be a process where we can only encourage them to go small distances every single year until we get them further into the park," she said. 

Alderson has been working with the city on its mitigation efforts since 2015. As of April 1, she oversees all Texas Parks and Wildlife urban biologists across the state.

"Now, the golden ticket question is ... where are the birds gonna go? And unfortunately, they are birds they don't read signs," Alderson added.

In a February interview, Texas State University Biology Professor Clay Green told the Current that relocation efforts such as the city's have no control over where the birds go. If run out of one place in Brackenridge, there's no guarantee the animals won't just find another spot inside the park. 

Indeed, Green pointed to the North Texas city of Arlington's attempt to relocate migratory birds, which ended up pushing them into neighborhoods where they became more of a nuisance. 

Grant Ellis, San Antonio Parks and Recreation's natural resources manager, even echoed Green's point during an interview in February.

“Birds may end up going wherever they go. It is impossible to know,” he said.

Still, with no specific location or desired outcome for where the birds end up, — at least ones explicitly given to the public — the city has declared themselves successful in their efforts.

San Antonio environmental activist Alesia Garlock, a frequent critic of the relocation efforts, said the city has shown a lack of openness during the months-long mitigation at Brackenridge.

“The plan was devised behind closed doors without public involvement or transparency," she said via text message. "The same issue with the 2017 bond project is lack of transparency and involvement of the public in decisions that impact us."

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