Researchers examine why black vultures kill cattle in Indiana

Vultures mainly feed on dead animals. In his 57 years as a farmer, Rollin Bach said he had never heard of a vulture kill anything.

Black vultures blamed for the deaths of farm animals

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But black vultures are different.

“Black vultures get aggressive from time to time and take livestock, usually newborn animals. But we’re really trying to understand what the reality of it is. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, but if we can cook it up to the point of science, this is the real one The speed at which it happens. We can preserve the species better, “said Lee Humberg, director of USDA APHIS Wildlife Services in .

Bach said some farmers in the area lost seven or eight calves – worth about $ 10,000. In recent years, Bach said he likely lost three cattle to the black vultures. One of them was a full-grown cow that had difficulty getting up after giving birth.

Bach said when he saw the birds around the cow he thought it must have died.

“Well, went down there and she was still alive and those black vultures ate on her,” he said.

He estimated there were around 40 to 50 black vultures.

“Of course, the first thing you do is tear out the eyeballs,” said Bach. “You ate so much on her that I had to get rid of the cow.”

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Bach said he heard other stories of black vultures trying to eat a calf before a cow gave birth. Humberg said his agency had heard similar anecdotes, but it was important to research so that such claims are evidence-based.

These cattle are a source of income for the farmers, and protecting the cattle from the birds is not as easy as a shotgun.

“All migratory birds in North America are federally protected,” said Humberg.

“It’s a federally protected bird, but for a hundred dollars they’ll let you kill some of them,” said Bach.

Bach said getting a permit in Kentucky was easier than getting one in Indiana. Even so, researchers said killing the birds was not the solution.

“Vultures play a role. They are a native species and nature’s cleaning crew,” said Humberg.

“We have seen in other parts of the world where they are having catastrophic decline in vultures, rabies has increased, and rats and wild dogs have increased, costing billions in human health consequences,” said Marian Wahl, a Ph .D Student in the Department of Forestry and Resources in Purdue.

The birds are usually found south of the Ohio River but have migrated north. Researchers don’t know why the birds attack farm animals or how widespread these attacks might be.



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“Right now we have no information at all for Indiana. In the southern United States, what we have information suggests that 40% of ranchers have had problems with them,” Wahl said. “We have no figures on how many cattle have been lost even in the southeastern United States.”

However, Purdue researchers are studying empirical data. Brooke McWherter, a Purdue PhD student studying at the Human Dimensions Lab, focuses her research on the social science aspect of the relationship between black vultures and cattle.

“I’m a natural science social scientist, so my research focuses solely on how people perceive and interact with such problems,” said McWherter. She is conducting a survey to find out more about the problem.

“Our research examines how pet owners interact with black vultures. And when they are negative, how do they experience black vultures? How do they attribute losses to black vultures? Are black vultures the cause? And then we also look at How worrisome are black vultures in broader context of other concerns that pet owners have in their day-to-day operations, “McWherter said.

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At the moment it is unclear how widespread or how problematic black vultures are for pet owners.

“That’s what this research hopes to collect. We are still in the process of collecting this data,” said McWherter.

It was anecdotal evidence that led this research, much like the anecdotal evidence that led 13 to tell this story.

Purdue hopes to assess the empirical relevance of the McWherter survey and encourage farmers to donate carcasses.

“The goal of my research is to find ways in which cattle and black vultures can live together in healthy ways,” said Wahl.

Humberg said there has been isolated evidence that portraits are helpful in deterring black vultures. However, research is still needed to determine the speed and types of images that are most successful.

Currently, the presence of black vultures in Indiana is a fact, but that fact is surrounded by many anecdotes and unanswered questions that Purdue researchers hope to answer.

Farmers who wish to donate a carcass can do so by clicking this link or by calling 317-647-5294.

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