- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) Virginia highway officials will remove at least some of the shrubs that have lured thousands of birds to their deaths.
The shrub, thorny elaeagnus, is planted in median strips across much of Virginia. In spring, its juicy red berries attract birds. Many get killed by cars and trucks.
"We want to correct the problem and get rid of what's attracting the birds," said Donald West, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Transportation. "We want to do the right thing."
VDOT officials made a tentative proposal for removing the shrubs during a meeting last week with federal wildlife agents and a federal prosecutor. Migratory birds are protected under federal law.
Highway officials said they will remove the shrubs this winter from two particularly troublesome spots a half-mile stretch of the Downtown Expressway in Richmond and a 11/4-mile stretch of Interstate 64 near the Lee Hall exit just east of Williamsburg.
Brian Waymack, a VDOT assistant division administrator, said the agency hasn't determined yet what to do with the plants elsewhere. The agency is still trying to determine how many median stretches are planted with the shrub and how it should be removed, he said.
"I don't know if we are going to be able to remove all of it," Mr. Waymack said.
The shrubs can pose hazards to people as well as birds. Dan Hurt, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who attended last week's meeting, said he was driving eastbound on I-64 near the Lee Hall exit last spring when a motorist in the left lane swerved to the right to avoid a flock of birds. A motorist in the right lane swerved right, all the way to the shoulder, to avoid that car.
Mr. Hurt said he is pleased VDOT will remove those shrubs and the ones in Richmond. "I think it will save 1,000 to 2,000 birds and possibly keep someone from having a wreck," he said.
Last spring, a College of William and Mary biologist studying the problem found more than 1,300 dead birds near the Lee Hall site and more than 300 at two other sites on the Downtown Expressway and along I-64 in eastern Henrico County.
People first started noticing the dead birds in 1999. The victims have included cardinals, robins and crows, but the biggest victims by far have been cedar waxwings.
For nearly 20 years, VDOT planted thorny elaeagnus in medians to block the glare of headlights at night. The shrub grows up to 15 feet tall and has silvery-green leaves.

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