Dear Vince,

Black vultures do prey on living animals, unlike turkey vultures.  They are
known to kill and eat newborn calves as well as sea turtle hatchlings on
beaches.  In fact, in some areas, they may be so bad as to pose a significant
threat to hurtle hatchlings (Costa Rica).  Also, they have been known to
perch on the backs of animal with sores.  The vultures will pick at the
sores, and continue the process until a severe wound develops.  I do not know
whether they have been implicated in the deaths of these large animals, but I
suspect so.

Another problem with our growing black vulture population is the non-organic
damage from them.  Boat owners are finding their seat cushions and vinyl
covers shredded by the birds, and the same fate is happening to asphault
shingles on the roofs of homes.

There is research now going on on how best to prevent their actions, and I
don't view the methods as draconian.  Chemicals to make something distasteful
are not bad.  Do you want to go back to the good old days of a 12-guage in
the hands of the farmer or homeowner as the preferred method?  Even a
chemical that makes the bird vomit would be a good strategy to establish a
negative enforcement of a trait.  They aren't out spraying Fenthion
(Rid-a-Bird) like someone did in Marco Island back in December that resulted
in the deaths on many birds of many species.  Keep this in perspective.  Even
if some birds are being killed, it isn't many.  The USFWS has to give them a
permit before they kill any vultures, and they do not give them out easily.

I am not affiliated with the Florida USDA facility but I do know several of
the biologists there.  I believe they are doing very good work.  The issue
that you've described is a typical one faced by contemporary wildlife
bioligists.  With a growing human population, increasing populations of some
animal species, and a decline in hunting and other killing of wildlife, there
are more problematic interactions to contend with, and in today's
politically-correct society that wants nonlethal solutions, the answers are
not always easy or ones that everyone will agree with.  The folks at the USDA
are just trying to find the best solutions, and nonlethality is preferred.

Lastly, they are doing some good research there on the lives of vultures,
such as on their migration, ranges, and dispersal patterns, that will help to
increase our knowledge base of these species.  In addition, the facility is
being used by several University of Florida researchers, myself included, for
various studies (such as mercury effects on birds, avian dispersal of exotic
plants, and avian predator recognition cues).

Michael Meisenburg
Archer, FL

Vincent Lucas wrote:

> Greetings:
> On another out-of-state listserv, I read about research being conducted
> in Florida to study the threat of Black Vultures to livestock,
> specifically newborn calves as well as property depradation by roosting
> vultures. Methods are being developed to help alleviate the problem using
> various methods including chemical irritants and lethal shooting. These
> methods seem a bit draconian to me. To read about this on the web, go to
> this URL:
> Does anyone know more about this research and how effective these methods
> are?
> Vince Lucas
> Naples