Local farmers who have lost cattle to the recent harsh winter weather can apply for federal assistance under the United States Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Indemnity Program. But the same program also helps farmers whose livestock have been killed by federally-protected avian predators like the black vulture.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources avian biologist Kate Heyden says the black vulture is fairly new to western Kentucky, proliferating in the last 20-50 years. She says black vultures are more aggressive than carrion-seeking turkey vultures and sometimes attempt to take live prey.
“That can become a little bit of an issue for farmers,” Heyden said. “We have, with an increase of these birds, experienced an increase in problems for livestock producers and young calves.”
Hopkinsville Farm Service Agency Center executive director Coy Higdon says a few claims have been made in the last year of the vultures attacking newborn calves shortly after or even during birth.
Heyden said farmers should attempt to document any vulture attacks on newborn calves.
“Vultures are protected, so you cannot shoot them without a permit, but if you have proof that you’ve had problems with vultures taking calves on your farm, you can apply for a federal permit," Heyden said.
Kentucky farmers can begin the process of obtaining a permit to shoot black vultures by contacting USDA Wildlife Services at (502) 254-1592.