Fact Finders: Attacking Missouri’s black vulture problem

Folks in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas are familiar with black vultures roosting on towers and dead trees.
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 8:59 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Black vulture populations are growing in southern Missouri. So, it triggered this question: Is Missouri spending $1.6 million to kill black vultures?

Folks in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas are familiar with black vultures roosting on towers and dead trees. They’re like turkey vultures. But the turkey vultures have red heads and have a much better sense of smell. The black vultures’ heads are black. Another difference, black vultures sometimes will attack livestock. They like to pick on newborns costing farmers dough.

“The black vulture will attack a calf just as soon as it hits the ground,” explained Davin Althoff of The Missouri Farm Bureau. “Typically, they go after the eyeballs first, but they attack the calf and kill it as soon as it’s born.”

The birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So, the legal methods of removing them are limited.

The Missouri Farm Bureau is part of a collaborative effort to move the bird away from livestock. They do have permits available to kill a small number of black vultures. But, not an entire committee on your land.

“Five takes is not going to completely solve the problem for beef producers,” says Althoff. “But it’s what they do from a non-lethal standpoint to help with their mitigation efforts.”

The Missouri Agriculture Department suggests vulture effigies like this one to move them away. Lasers at night can make them feel unwelcome. Livestock close to giving birth can also be brought into a covered pen.

The state has already passed a bill with more than $600,000 in funding to fight against the birds. In part, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says Missouri will reimburse the federal agency for two employees. Those employees would advise farmers in southern Missouri. But not every politician is on-board spending another proposed $1.6 million on the program. That’s in an appropriations bill.

“That’s one of those things that I think, you know, the citizens of this state are going to look at and say, Is this the proper role of government,” says Republican Missouri State Senator Bill Eigel of St. Charles County. “Is this what we ought to be doing?”

Now, that 1.6 million is in a bill that’s passed the House and moved over to the Senate. Both chambers must approve the bill by Friday, May 5, 2023. So, it’s in limbo at this moment.

So, back to the question; Is Missouri spending 1.6 million to kill black vultures?

This is really a two-part question. Is Missouri spending 1.6 million? As of right now, No. But that could all change very shortly, depending on the legislature and Missouri’s Governor.

Is the program meant to kill black vultures? Not necessarily. The word used over and over with KY3 in interviews is mitigate. Although permits exist, you can get from the Farm Bureau to kill up to 5 black vultures.

One additional note: The Farm Bureau brochure is from 2021 when the maximum number was three takes. We’re told by the Missouri Farm Bureau the updated number is 5.

If you have something you want us to investigate, email us at factfinders@ky3.com

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