Black vulture livestock program expands to Missouri

By Travis Guerrant, CWB, State Director, USDA Wildlife Services-Missouri/Iowa

Black vultures have been expanding their range, creating new concerns from farmers and ranchers about the safety of their livestock. Credit: USDA Wildlife Services

Over the past decade, USDA Wildlife Services has seen rising requests for assistance regarding damage caused by black vultures (Coragyps atratus), especially to agricultural resources. Nationally, concerns have moved steadily north and west, into Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. The important role of scavengers is well appreciated, however black vultures will prey directly on weak or sick livestock, raising particular concern for agricultural operations.

Through close collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services, the Missouri Farm Bureau has received a depredation permit under a recently expanded Black Vulture Livestock Protection Pilot Program. The USFWS authorized expansion of the program to other states after successfully implementing it in Tennessee and Kentucky for the past several years.

In one of the top five cattle-producing states, Missouri farmers and ranchers have seen increased conflicts, especially in the southern portion of the state. The Missouri Farm Bureau permit is the first issued in USFWS Region 3. It was modeled closely on the original pilot program in Tennessee and Kentucky.

To provide livestock producers with a cost-free and expedited option to obtain a lethal removal permit, the Missouri Farm Bureau agreed to obtain the permit and issue sub-permits for lethal take when warranted. The permit authorizes the take of 350 black vultures, with a maximum of three black vultures allowed per sub-permit, which must be a livestock producer. Applications for sub-permits will be scored based on past livestock losses, the number of livestock on the farming operation, the number of black vulture roosts and birds in the immediate vicinity and the county ranking of livestock with Missouri.

Wildlife Services will continue site visits to document damage and attempts for nonlethal preventive measures. The agency will also continue expanded educational outreach regarding black vultures.

Wildlife Services is a Strategic Partner of TWS.


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