Navigating Vulture Problems: Understanding Federal Protections and Regulations
Wildlife control consultant Stephen Vantassel received a question about vulture control and decided to create a podcast episode to help people with this particular issue. Vantassel acknowledges that vultures are not a primary project for most people but says that learning about niche subjects can help broaden one’s knowledge and provide new perspectives. He proceeds to discuss the migratory bird treaty act and how it affects vultures, emphasizing the importance of understanding federal protections and regulations when dealing with these birds.
Chapter 1: Understanding the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
The migratory bird treaty act is an international treaty between the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Russia that protects birds that cross international boundaries. Essentially, all native birds to the United States are protected under this act except for those that are regulated under hunting seasons.
The treaty was created to prevent one country from over-hunting a particular species, ensuring that all countries can participate in using the resource. However, the downside of this act is that it impedes wildlife control efforts, particularly when it comes to vultures. Federal regulations make it illegal to shoot vultures, making it challenging for states and municipalities to deal with vulture problems. Therefore, understanding the migratory bird treaty act is critical for those seeking to control vulture populations in their area.
Chapter 2: Understanding Vultures
Now that we’ve covered the legal aspect of dealing with vultures, let’s dive into understanding these unique birds.
Vultures are often associated with death and decay, but they serve a crucial role in the ecosystem as scavengers. They help clean up carcasses and prevent the spread of disease by consuming carrion that might otherwise attract vermin and disease-carrying insects. In fact, vultures have such a strong digestive system that they are even able to consume bacteria such as anthrax and botulism.
There are two types of vultures in North America: the turkey vulture and the black vulture. The turkey vulture is the more common of the two and is known for its bald red head, large wingspan, and distinctive V-shaped soaring pattern. The black vulture is smaller with a dark black plumage and a shorter wingspan, and tends to be more aggressive and opportunistic than its turkey vulture counterpart.
Vultures are social creatures and often roost in large groups, referred to as a wake or committee. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even urban areas, and they have a keen sense of smell that helps them locate carrion from miles away.
While vultures are not typically aggressive towards humans, they can become a nuisance if they begin roosting on or near buildings or if they cause damage to property. Vultures are protected under federal law, which means that non-lethal methods must be used to deter them.
Chapter 3: Vulture Control Measures
Vultures can be a nuisance for homeowners and business owners because they scratch and gouge things with their sharp beaks and talons. They also produce a lot of excrement that emits an ammonia smell, leading to a sense of doom for the people living or working in the affected area. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the emotional and psychological aspect of vulture infestations and provide sensitive support to the clients struggling with them.
To control vultures, habitat modification is an essential measure. Managing waste, trash, and garbage appropriately and ensuring that ranchers and livestock people are calving undercover can help eliminate food sources for the birds. However, eliminating food alone cannot solve the problem, but it can help reduce the time vultures spend in a particular area.
Vultures are scavengers and rely on dead and sick animals for food, making roadkill a constant source of nutrition. With the number of deer hit on roads and highways in the United States, it’s likely that vultures are doing well due to this constant supply of food.
When vultures are roosting in trees, thinning out the branches may make the area less attractive for them to roost. However, there are no clear standards, and it may not work for vultures, as it has for starlings.
When thinning out branches, it’s essential to do it correctly and with clean equipment to avoid spreading disease from one tree to another. It’s best to hand off the task to an arborist with experience and knowledge of proper tree care.
Cutting down trees is also an option for vulture control, but trees are a valuable resource and take a long time to grow. Therefore, most clients may not want to cut down trees.
When vultures are roosting on structures, using tall thin spikes that are space is not recommended as the birds can bend them down. Instead, using bird netting or bird shock strips is a better option to deter vultures from roosting on structures.
Chapter 4: Other Options
Vulture infestations can be a significant problem for homeowners and business owners due to their destructive behavior and the ammonia smell of their excrement. It’s essential to provide emotional support to clients struggling with vulture infestations and take measures to control vultures’ population.
Habitat modification by managing waste, trash, and garbage appropriately and ensuring that livestock is calving undercover can help eliminate food sources for the birds. Thinning out branches in trees or cutting them down may reduce the area’s attractiveness for vultures to roost.
Using bird netting or bird shock strips is a better option in controlling vultures than tall thin spikes that are space to deter vultures from roosting on structures. It’s crucial to do the task correctly and with clean equipment to avoid spreading disease from one tree to another.
Overall, controlling vulture populations requires a combination of different measures, and it’s crucial to tailor them to the specific situation. By taking the necessary steps, homeowners and business owners can reduce vulture infestations and protect their properties from damage.
Chapter 5: Artificial Effigies as an Effective Solution for Vulture Depredation
In the past, taxidermied animals were commonly used to deter vultures from attacking livestock. However, over time, these animals wore out and became less effective. This led to the development of artificial effigies, which are made of plastic or fake feathers, among other materials. Artificial effigies have been found to work effectively in deterring vultures. However, there are difficulties in locating these effigies, which are currently mostly unavailable on Amazon and Walmart.
A study by Avery and Lowney in 2016 explored various materials that could be used for vulture damage management. According to their findings, artificial effigies are one of the most effective methods for deterring vultures. However, the effigies must be as realistic as possible to be effective. Despite this requirement, some artificial effigies, such as the artificial black vulture from Walmart, which is actually a turkey vulture, have been found to be effective.
The flock free vulture effigy is also available but has received mixed reviews. It is important to note that using pyrotechnics to deter vultures is an option, but it is not always safe or practical. Therefore, artificial effigies are considered the most effective method for vulture damage management. However, there is a need for a more reliable source of these artificial effigies in the market.
Chapter 6: Conclusion and Recommendation
In conclusion, vultures can cause significant damage to livestock and other property, making vulture control an essential task. The use of lethal control methods, such as shooting or poisoning, is not recommended due to legal and ethical considerations. Non-lethal control methods, such as the use of artificial effigies, are effective in deterring vultures from causing damage.
However, the availability of artificial effigies in the market is currently limited, and some products have received mixed reviews. Therefore, there is a need for further research to improve the design and availability of these effigies. Additionally, property owners must carefully consider the practicality and safety of using pyrotechnics and other methods of vulture damage management.
Overall, it is recommended that property owners consult with wildlife experts and relevant authorities to identify the most effective and safe methods for managing vulture damage.
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Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACE
Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC
Helping people resolve conflicts with wildlife through teaching, training, writing, and research
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