– Perry Orndorff, Wildlife Specialist, Fairfield SWCD
In recent years, Ohio’s livestock producers are becoming increasingly concerned with predation by black vultures. The black vulture is a separate species from the turkey vulture, which is more recognizable because of its prominent red head. Black vultures appear smaller than turkey vultures and have black heads and shorter wings. The undersides of their wings have white tips which are visible while in flight. Black vultures are at the northern edge of their range here in Ohio, and their range within the state appears to be spreading. They have been found as far north as Coshocton County. Rather than feeding only on carrion, black vultures are an aggressive bird and will kill other animals for food. Black vultures have been reported killing and injuring piglets, lambs, and more rarely, calves and cows giving birth. If you see black vultures on or near your farm, keep a close eye on where they are roosting, especially at dawn and dusk.
To discourage these birds, knowing their habits and roost sites is very helpful. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- * Understanding the biology of the animal/bird causing problems.
- * Removing or properly composting any carcasses on the farm.
- * Habitat modification- vultures prefer large dead trees for roosting. Removing these snags where possible means vultures must fly longer distances to reach the area having problems.
- * Exclusion – use of netting or porcupine wire in roosting areas to discourage use by vultures.
- * Harassment – use of pyrotechnics in conjunction with other techniques is beneficial. Many wildlife officers and Ohio SWCD offices have these devices available for use by county residents.
What if these techniques are used and vultures are still a problem? All vultures are federally protected, so shooting them may be done only with Federal approval. At this point, USDA Wildlife Services can assist the landowner in obtaining a permit to remove the vultures. These permits are only issued through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Minneapolis. Because this process can take 2 to 4 weeks to complete, contact the Wildlife Services officer as vulture problems occur.