Vulture – Livestock Damage Management
Vultures have an adaptable nature and exhibit complex behavior. These characteristics—combined with increasing vulture populations—are resulting in a wide range of conflicts between vultures and people. Conflicts occur in agricultural as well as in suburban and urban settings. Wildlife Services (WS), a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works closely with farmers, homeowners, State and local governments, and industries to resolve conflicts with vultures.
Two different vulture species are native to North America: black vultures and turkey vultures. These scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem, feeding mostly on carrion, or already dead animals. Extremely adaptable, vultures thrive in close proximity to people.
Populations of both species have increased in abundance and range in the past 30 years. These increases may continue into the future. Vultures often form large roosts and loafing areas, numbering from a few dozen to hundreds of individual birds. Conflicts arise when these congregations form near people or near livestock operations.
Agricultural Damage—Both turkey and black vultures normally eat carrion. Black vultures, however, also may attack and kill calves, lambs, piglets, and other weak animals. This predatory behavior often results in serious injury to livestock, as vultures target the eyes and soft membranous tissues. These domestic animals often must be euthanized due to the extent of their injuries.
Vultures are migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, State laws, and regulations. They are managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and by State wildlife agencies. The birds, their nests, and eggs cannot be killed or destroyed without a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit. Individual States and localities may impose further restrictions on vulture management. WS State offices may be consulted for more specific local information.
Vulture management is complicated and site-specific, so consultation with wildlife professionals is vital to successfully resolving damage situations. WS will provide a range of alternatives for the farmer to consider including nonlethal and lethal alternatives. In some situations, lethal removal of birds may be required to resolve damage effectively. To assist with the permitting process and first steps, follow the general guidelines below:
- Contact the WS state office at 1-866-4USDA-WS (1-866-487-3297).
- WS Form 37 (Permit Review) is needed as part of the permit application package which will gather the following information:
- Name, address, phone number and email;
- Location of damage if different than mailing address; and
- Type of damage and any damage estimates.
- The WS Form 37 and USFWS Migratory Bird Depredation Permit Application are sent to requestor.
- Requestor fills out the Migratory Bird Depredation Permit Application and mails the application, a copy of WS Form 37, and a check for $50 (individual) or $100 (business) to the following address:
Migratory Bird and Eagle Permit Office
PO Box 49208
Atlanta, GA 30359
- USFWS issues the permit. A copy of the permit may be emailed to the requestor with a follow-up hard copy.
- Migratory Bird Depredation Permit will be valid from the date issued to March 31st of the following year.
- Depredation Permit Report due to the USFWS by January 31st.
If a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit is issued, it may be for a very limited number of birds. This permit does not authorize unlimited take but is to reinforce other management strategies. In taking a few vultures, the proper placement of a vulture effigy can be effective in most cases. If additional services are needed, WS may enter into cooperative service agreements to resolve these conflicts in the field.
For more information about managing vulture damage, or other WS operations, contact the local office at 1-866-4USDA-WS (1-866-487-3297) or visit the website www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/.