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Universities working to figure out if black vultures are killing local livestock

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 4:57 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The University of Kentucky, Murry State University, and Purdue University are all trying to figure out if some local livestock deaths are caused by black vultures.

The researchers are hoping to help farmers prevent future calf loss. The study coordinator and assistant professor of wildlife management at UK, Dr. Matt Springer, is trying to reach out to cattle farmers for information.

For cattle farmers, black vultures aren’t new predators to be concerned about, but with an increased population and help from this study, farmers can be given information to better protect their animals.

“Black vulture populations have been growing and their range has been slowly expanding,” Springer said. “As those populations grow we think that they’re interacting with livestock a bit more and going after those baby calves.

Springer says the birds are known for being scavengers, but, more recently, there have been more reports of cattle farm altercations. Farmers can also report losses for financial help.

“So, the USDA and FDA will issue a payment to them to recover their losses,” Springer said.

They are hoping to get donations from people that physically saw the attack. One way to tell if your cattle have been attacked is usually by seeing damage around the eyes, mouth and rectum.

Not only are they collecting the calf carcasses, but if you report a nest they can monitor it as well.

“They are really not that picky about nesting sites,” Springer said. “They will literally just drop an egg on the ground.”

The birds will nest almost anywhere but usually found in abandoned buildings, logs, and rocks. Springer even mentioned they found a nest in an area shared with raccoons, a known bird egg predator.

“They are aggressive enough and large enough to fight off these predators which is rather impressive,” Springer said. “So, that would cause their population to skyrocket.”

Overall, the researchers are hoping that they can gather enough data and information to inform farmers on how to minimize vulture-related attacks on their livestock.

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