Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, is visiting with NCBA’s Associate Director for Governmental Affairs, Sigrid Johannes, about the introduction of the Black Vulture Relief Act.
Cattle producers in several states have reported black vultures swooping in and causing problems with their calves. Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President, says that several reports in eastern Oklahoma have the birds not only preying on newborn calves- but adds that if given the chance, will eat on the mama cow as she is trying to deliver.
The bill would allow a cattle producer to “take” (capture, kill, disperse, or transport) black vultures that pose a risk to livestock. Additionally, the bill reduces permitting burdens and red tape by instituting a simple report that producers submit once per year detailing the number of black vultures they took. Streamlining the system and lifting the cap on number of black vultures that producers can take is a commonsense approach to managing a fully recovered, aggressive predator species.
“This is a great piece of pretty common-sense and bipartisan legislation that is being led by Congressman John Rose from Tennessee and Congressman Darren Soto from Florida,” Johannes said. “This is a measure that would allow for folks, for agricultural producers, to take black vultures without needing a permit on the front end. It maintains the requirement that you report those incidences of lethal take or just of harassment and things like that, deterrence measures on the back end, in a once yearly report, but it doesn’t require that producers have a permit before they go and take that action against a predator species that might be harassing and often killing calves and they’re attacking cows.”
The black vulture is listed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Johannes said, which is a piece of legislation that is different in function, but similar in concept to the Endangered Species Act. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Johannes said, puts in place protections for a variety of migratory bird species and puts restrictions on the ways they can be taken.
“Remember, ‘take’ includes not just killing, but also all of those harassment actions and non-lethal measures that folks to do deter those predatory birds from going after their livestock,” Johannes said. “The problem is, the black vulture is by no means endangered, or even threatened and is a really abundant species throughout the Midwest and Southeast of the United States.”
Black vulture depredation rates have gone up consistently over the past ten years, Johannes said, and wildlife services is over-taxed and overstretched in the requests that they receive to deal with this specific bird species.
“In some states like Florida, for example, the rate of folks who experience livestock loss due to black vulture depredation every year is 38 percent,” Johannes said. “So, this is not some niche issue. It is definitely something that is affecting a lot of producers across the South, and what they have to do now is apply through their states for a permit to be able to take black vultures. States, in turn go to fish and wildlife to receive those permits, so it is really a sub-permit that folks are receiving from their state.”
The problem is, Johannes said, these permits go out in very small amounts.
“We are talking, taking three birds a year, for example,” Johannes said. “That is just not enough flexibility and not a high enough number to be able to deal with the level of the problem at hand.”
There are people who lose more than a dozen animals in a year to black vultures, Johannes said, as it can be a pretty severe problem.
“We appreciate that this bill would take the cap off and just let people do what they need to do to protect their livestock,” Johannes said.
The black vulture’s harming of livestock impacts producers in many ways, Johannes said, inflicting them financially and emotionally.
“I don’t have to explain this to any of our folks who are out there working on the ranch, and they see this, but for people who are not familiar, not a fast death,” Johannes said. “It is a pretty gruesome situation when you get a calf who is down and being preyed upon by these birds.”
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