LOCKPORT – An exterminator said Wednesday that his company was hired by Walmart to try to clear sea gulls off the site of the company’s planned new Lockport supercenter.
John Zimmerman, co-owner and general manager of Buffalo Exterminating, said he is using strobe lights and netting close to the ground to try to dissuade thousands of sea gulls from nesting at the site.
The gulls used to nest on the roof of the former Lockport Mall on South Transit Road. Walmart bought the mall and demolished most of it, intending to replace it with a 185,000-square-foot supercenter combining a supermarket with Walmart’s usual merchandise.
It would replace the existing Lockport Walmart about a quarter of a mile away. Walmart battled through years of town planning processes and citizens’ litigation to win the right to build the new store.
Despite the demolition, the gulls came back in 2011 and 2012. Zimmerman said they are a protected species as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so lethal methods can’t be used to remove them.
Zimmerman said Walmart wanted to take a more proactive approach this time to shooing the sea gulls away.
However, he said, there seems to be plenty of food available for the sea gulls from the fast-food restaurants on the South Transit commercial strip.
Tuesday, a Buffalo Exterminating crew and representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation were on the site, installing some equipment that Zimmerman hopes will do the job.
“We’re using some deterrent things. I think they’re called ‘eagle eyes,’ ” he said of the strobe-type lights on tripods. Also, nets are to be installed near the ground to make it harder for the gulls to get to the asphalt they are using as a nesting ground.
Zimmerman said his goal is to persuade the birds not to make nests and lay eggs on the ground. If they do lay eggs, the Walmart project might be on hold for months to come.
“There are a number of visual or auditory things you can do to make birds uncomfortable,” Zimmerman said.
Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said one of the ideas is to remove nesting materials from the site, such as the thousands of weeds growing up through cracks in the abandoned asphalt.
Smith said Walmart has not given the town any inkling of when it intends to start construction if the bird removal succeeds. Zimmerman said it might be several months before results can be declared.
Walmart did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.