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"There's something radically wrong here:" Are birds safe in Estero subdivision?

When a neighbor was worried about the local wildlife, he called Estero's Community Correspondent Dominga Murray to look into it.
Posted at 11:46 PM, Apr 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-05 23:46:22-04

Frank Albergo loves living at Wildcat Run Golf & Country Club in Estero. So that's why he says he called me, Estero's Community Correspondent, when he noticed something happening in their back yards that made him nervous. Albergo said he and his neighbors were concerned for the health of the animals that live nearby.

"Right away I thought there's something radically wrong here," Albergo said.

Just outside of his back window is an island where herons, a state-protected bird, are nesting. He's worried some of them are in danger.

See the vegetation here:

Herons nesting with hatchlings at Wildcat Run

Across the water, you can see the tops of the vegetation are green, and the bottom is gray and defoliated. The lifeless part was recently sprayed, Albergo said.

"I saw a boat out there that we've never seen, and there was a guy going around with a sprayer and the next day everything was dead from the lake, 8 feet up," Albergo said.

Frank Albergo showing Estero's Community Correspondent Dominga Murray the Heron's nest

So I reached out to Albergo's homeowners association "and" to the company managing the subdivision's waterways. What had Frank seen, and was said spraying of chemicals as harmful to the fauna as it appeared to be for the flora?

A couple days later I heard from them. They said the spray was a glyphospate weed killer meant to help control invasive Brazilian Pepper trees and other vegetation. They shared this statement with me.

"The Wildcat Run home owners association is environmentally responsible. The community HOA follows all state, county and local guidelines in the maintenance and upkeep of its lakes and property. The Wildcat Run homeowner's association board of directors has routinely communicated with the homeowners during Annual Member Meetings and monthly community newsletters about the projects to be undertaken. The community collaborates with a lake management company and works with “Native Bird Boxes” to protect the bird habitat. The Wildcat Run Community has established and maintains a policy of caring for the environment and has always used reputable, Florida State licensed vendors to help them achieve our goals."
Wildcat Run

The water management company, SOLitude, chimed in by email.

"Our treatment should not interfere with nesting birds. All the products we use are approved and registered for aquatic use by the EPA and the Florida Department of Agriculture. While on-site yesterday I observed plenty of birds nesting on the island. The birds would move to a different location if they didn't like their surroundings."

"My concern is if they're saying now that it's safe, I'm not buying that," Albergo said.

Albergo wasn't feeling any better, so I kept digging to understand more about this chemical.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told me aquatic herbicides were tested extensively by the EPA and also had to be registered with the state, a process during which experts at state health and environmental agencies weigh in.

And sure enough, I found glyphosphate on the US Environmental Protection Agency's website.Glylphospahte has a "potential risk to terrestrial and aquatic plants mammals, and birds."

While it's only a potential risk, and the EPA did approve its use after all, Frank remained skeptical.

"Someone has to advocate for these animals," he said.