Some U.S. Farmers Now Able to Fight Back Against and Shoot Cow-Eating Black Vultures

by Jonathan Howard

Look up at a country sky and you will likely see big, dark birds gliding on the wind. Black vultures are common throughout the southern United States.

Typically, vultures are carrion eaters. They eat dead animals and help clean up potentially diseased carcasses. These birds are protected all over the United States, but that may come to an end for black vultures.

Not to be confused with their red-headed brethren, the turkey vulture, black vultures do not have a distinct red-colored head. As their name implies the entire bird is black from head to toe. Unfortunately, black vultures don’t always wait for their animals to die. That has farmers in Indiana looking for solutions.

One farmer according to Yahoo! News has about had it. John Hardin told Yahoo!, “The black vultures, now that’s a very, very aggressive bird. They’re basically waiting for the cows and calves to die or trying to kill them.” Vultures hang around and stalk dying or sick animals. Looking for an easy meal is what vultures do.

While black vultures mainly subsist off dead animals, they have other favorites. They can’t take down large healthy game, however, calves, piglets, baby goats, and more are on the menu. Sick animals are also easy targets. Black vultures will swarm in groups, and if the prey is alive they don’t go quickly.

Hardin said, “When you’re in the animal husbandry business, one of the worst things you want is for an animal to die, especially the way vultures do it. Once they get a hold of them, they pick the calf’s nose off, pick around his mouth, face and navel. So then the calf can’t make it very long after that.” Gruesome stuff for such helpless animals. However, the Indiana Farm Bureau is looking to help farmers.

Black Vultures Against Indiana Farm Bureau

The Indiana Farm Bureau has set up a new program to help farmers out. While black vultures are protected by international law as migratory birds, the program could allow farmers to remove a limited number of these birds from their properties.

The problem started a few years ago as black vultures began migrating across the Ohio River and into southern Indiana. While there were so few black vultures in the state just 20 years ago, there are now around 17,000 in the state. While there isn’t a clear idea of the exact damage the birds have done, farmers have raised enough concerns in recent years. A recent survey of 20 livestock producers gave some surprising results. Over three years those producers lost 25 animals due to black vultures.

As farmers look for easier ways to protect their livestock, Indiana Farm Bureau has looked to other programs used in other states. States throughout the south including Kentucky and Tennessee have had similar programs for some time. While the goal is not to eradicate the animal completely, minimizing their damage is important for farmers. Small suppliers can be hurt by the loss of just one or two animals.

As for John Hardin, he’s ready to see some change. “It’s going to be hard to eradicate them, but I hope it helps. Everybody I know is on board and I think there is a sense of hope.”