Each year, the federal government signs off on thousands of birds and active nests getting destroyed in Ohio.
Anyone who wishes to kill any birds they believe are a nuisance must fill out a form explaining how the birds are causing damage and what alternative measures were taken before seeking a lethal option.
Between 2016 and 2017, more than than 233,000 birds were authorized to be killed or their active nests destroyed, according to the latest available federal data analyzed by The Dispatch. Permit holders reported nearly 20,000 birds or their nests being taken.
"It’s a last resort to utilize lethal (force) after other methods haven't been effective," said Tom Cooper, chief of the migratory bird program for the Midwest region of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The reasons why people, businesses and other groups give for wanting to kill the birds or destroy their nests vary. They include to protect airports, crops, zoos and personal property, such as siding from woodpeckers, or livestock, such as newborn calves that have been known to be attacked by black vultures.
About a third of the birds killed and/or nests destroyed in Ohio — more than 7,300 — were in Cuyahoga County, the data show. Franklin County followed with more than 3,300; Hancock with more than 2,100; Erie with more than 1,600; and Lucas at more than 1,500.
Prologis, a California-based real-estate logistics company that holds permits in Franklin County, had the highest take in Ohio, with nearly 2,700 active nests destroyed by the company. No adult birds were killed, according to the data. No one from the company responded to multiple requests seeking comment.
Other groups that killed the most birds or destroyed their active nests include: Cleveland State University (more than 1,900), Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority (more than 1,700), Burke Lakefront Airport (1,500), Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. (more than 1,400) and General Motors at the Lordstown Complex (more than 1,200).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife office occasionally receives complaints from people who dislike the lethal action taken against the birds.
"We certainly do get calls from the public. There's concern when they hear about the take of birds from time to time. We talk through it with them. ... We try to minimize take," Tom Cooper said.
When the local Audubon Society was contacted, members declined to comment. A message to the headquarters of the national organization was not returned.
Across the nation, some wildlife advocates have called the permit program government-sanctioned killing. They say the public often doesn't know the program exists and add that it shows how the government frequently puts the needs of commerce ahead of conservation.
Still, studies show that cats remain the biggest threat to birds. A 2013 study estimated that cats, both in the wild and those that are indoor pets but are allowed to roam outdoors, kill anywhere from 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year.
Mark Shieldcastle, research director at Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor in northwest Ohio, which combines research and education for conservation efforts, predicts the number of birds killed by permit will only increase.
"As the human population grows and spreads out across the landscape, places for these wildlife species to go is getting smaller," he said.
Birds will have more contact with humans. Some will be able to adapt.
"As we continue to encroach more into what was their homes, there's going to be more conflict," Shieldcastle said.