September 28, 2021

Vultures can prey on livestock

How to report losses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers are looking for ways to understand and control vulture predation. If you’ve lost livestock in Indiana or Kentucky, here’s what you can do to help.

What to do if you lose an animal:

1. Take lots of pictures from every angle.

2. If scavengers are around, move the carcass somewhere they cannot access it.

3. Call or text Marian Wahl at 317-647-5294 as soon as you can.

“These vultures are nature’s garbage disposals,” said Patrick Zollner, professor of wildlife science at Purdue. “They’re cleaning up the carcasses of dead animals, and that’s an important role.

“If they come across a stillborn calf, they’ll eat that. But some of these birds go after young animals or even calves as they’re being birthed.”

Lee Humberg, Indiana state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, suggests first assessing your operation to ensure that it’s not attracting the birds.

Quickly removing any stillborn carcasses or dead wildlife can remove food the birds might be attracted to. Taking down dead trees removes a preferred roosting option for the vultures.

Effigies of vultures, including taxidermy birds or those made of artificial materials, hung by their feet near cattle can scare off other birds. Pyrotechnics, cattle dogs and other sources of harassment can frighten some away, as well.

“Some of these tactics help,” Humberg said. “But not everything works for everybody. A lot of it depends on the size of the operation and the sensitivity of the birds to your tactics and tools.”

Black vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so they cannot be killed without a permit.

Humberg said anyone with questions about mitigation efforts or who wants a permit to use lethal force should call USDA Wildlife Services at 866-487-3297.

For more information, visit

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor