STAGECOACH - Lyon County residents near here were upset this week when they found more than 100 starlings dead in their yards.
"It was pretty disturbing," said Steve MacDonald, of Stagecoach. "My neighbor had hundreds of them laying dead in his yard, and we didn't know if it was a disease or what."
But Robert Beach of the Nevada Animal Damage Control Program says the starlings, considered a serious pest especially to the livestock industry, were poisoned with state permission and assistance.
"We've been targeting six to nine locations in the Fallon area," he said.
Beach said huge numbers of starlings eat grain given to dairy and beef cattle at area feed lots, then dump their waste on everything that's left. He said because of their aggressive nature and the waste they produce, they drive out other birds.
"They'll push the other birds back and they're so dirty some other birds won't stay anywhere near them," he said.
Starlings are not native to Nevada. They were introduced as an ornamental bird in the East more than 100 years ago. Uncontrolled, their population quickly rose to the hundreds of thousands, he said.
They can often be seen roosting in large groups along the ridge line of a barn or atop nearby utility wires. When their numbers get that large, Beach said, farmers and ranchers have no choice but to ask state help in controlling them.
The answer: the chemical DRC1339, more commonly known as "starlicide."
"It's a very efficient control," he said, pointing out that almost nothing else will eat the poison because of its oily coating. And since the poison is neutralized in the bird's body by the time it dies, predators - whether raptors or dogs and cats - aren't harmed.
But since the poison takes time to work, Beach said, the birds flew home to their roost in Stagecoach before dying. He said specialists checked them when they received several calls from Stagecoach to make sure it was starlicide that killed the birds.
MacDonald said that's the explanation he received as well, and he's satisfied with it.
Beach said there may be more dead starlings in the near future because more poisonings are scheduled in the Fernley area.