Got vultures? Send in 'The Duke'

A lifesize cutout of John Wayne has been put up to keep vultures away from a water tower near Appling. So far, it has been working.

Vultures are widely known for doing whatever they please, but a local trapper found a novel way to keep them off a Columbia County water tower.

“They were showing up and hanging around there, grooming,” said William Hooker, of Hooker’s Trapping Service. “So we put ‘The Duke’ up.”

The life-size cutout, placed high above the landscape near Ap­pling, shows actor John Wayne wearing his cowboy hat and holstered six-shooter – looking the way he did in True Grit, in which he said, “Young fella, if you’re looking for trouble, I’ll accommodate you.”

The vultures have headed for the hills.

Because the tower is part of the water system, the county is required to deter pests, including vultures, said Bill Clayton, the Water Utility Division director.

Known as buzzards in much of the nation, vultures are carrion eaters that gather in large numbers to roost and preen.

Some people enjoy the birds and even celebrate them.

The Jefferson County town of Louisville, Ga., holds an annual festival, the Buzzard Blast, with the bird as its mascot. This year’s event is scheduled for May 11 with crafts, food, a 5K run and a Miss Buzzard Blast beauty pageant.

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