Dealing with black vultures

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2016

By David Davis, Clark County Extension Agent 

We have two types of vultures in Kentucky: the turkey vulture and the black vulture.

Turkey vultures have always been quite common. Occasionally, landowners in Clark County will have some slight property damage because of their roosting habits. Older barns, certain types of trees, or low traffic areas often attract them to roost or nest. Other than that, turkey vultures are very beneficial as very efficient scavengers. Turkey vultures do not take live prey. They only feed on animals that are deceased.

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Black vultures, though, have been known to occasionally feed on live prey — usually sick, newborn or dying animals. In general, all vultures are attracted to livestock birthing sites to feed on the afterbirth and stillborns. Having vultures at a birthing site is not necessarily a concern. When healthy newborn calves are taken, they become a problem.

I recently received several phone calls from beef producers concerned about black vultures attacking newborn calves. Some farmers have reported calf losses because of black vulture predation. If you suspect or see calf loss to black vultures, make sure to document what you can. Pictures and dated records could be beneficial in dealing with black vulture issues on your farm in the future.

Here is also some useful information released from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife to keep in mind when dealing with black vultures.

Black vultures are protected by federal law, and cannot be killed without a federal permit. Any attacks on livestock should be well documented with photographs and dated records.

If attacks are causing substantial losses and are documented, landowners can apply for a permit to reduce the black vulture population on the farm. Permits are available for a fee from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. To find out more contact USDA Wildlife Services by calling 502-254-1592.

As of June 1, 2015, there are also sub-permits available through the Kentucky Farm Bureau for no cost. These permits are available to producers experiencing problems with vulture depredation of livestock only. Take is limited to five vultures for these permits and landowners having severe problems with large flocks are encouraged to obtain their own federal permit via the permit process. Those interested in obtaining a sub-permit from the Kentucky Farm Bureau. Questions about this process should be addressed to Joe Cain by email ( or by calling 502-495-7738 or 502-303-3663.

David Davis is the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.