Black vultures are quickly becoming a predator of young calves in Alabama. To combat the issue, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is issuing depredation permits to help livestock producers manage the increasing threat.
ADAI Commissioner Rick Pate said the department received complaints from producers and state ag organizations regarding the migratory birds.
“We applied for and were granted a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),” Pate said. “This permit allows livestock producers to manage these predatory vultures.”
Farmers most often see black vultures stalking prey during calving season, said Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Chris Prevatt.
“We’re excited farmers and ranchers have a new tool to protect livestock and prevent loss,” Prevatt said. “Protecting newborn calves is a top priority for cattle farmers and can be difficult even without external issues. These permits should help ease the mind of anyone worried about losses due to black vultures.”
Permittees are bound by several restrictions, according to ADAI. The maximum number of vultures taken in Alabama cannot exceed 500, while each permit holder is allowed to take three birds as long as the statewide maximum has not been met. Permittees must use a shotgun no larger than a 10-gauge with nontoxic shot.
Vultures must be reported within 48 hours. If a permit holder does not take any birds, they must still report “no birds taken” on their registered account with USFWS. When Alabama’s maximum harvest threshold is reached, permittees will be informed by email.
Other migratory birds are off-limits with this permit, including turkey vultures. Unlike black vultures, turkey vultures have a red head with white beaks and are typically browner.
ADAI staff encourages using non-lethal deterrent methods in conjunction with depredation permits to protect livestock.
“We encourage farmers to protect their products by available means,” Prevatt said. “Farmers suffering losses from black vulture attacks should use this new opportunity to the fullest extent.”