Farmers, congressman work to combat vulture problem

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

SHARP COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - A United State Congressman is working to help Region 8 farmers who have been dealing with a big problem lately: losing cattle to black vultures.

"If you're in the cattle business in Arkansas, you're dealing with this," Representative Rick Crawford said.

There isn't much that farmers can do to stop the vulture attacks.

"These birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that goes all the way back to 1918," Crawford said. "It makes it illegal for anyone to take any migratory bird except under the terms of a valid permit."

That is a $100 depredation permit allowing them to kill 30 vultures per year. Crawford does not think that would do enough to help the problem.

"That doesn't even scratch the surface," he said. "There will be more than 30 that will attack a single calf that's being born or recently been born."

Crawford said the problem is that these birds are not migratory.

Studies have shown they stay around all year long because of the steady supply of prey.

"Cows calve here in Spring and Fall and that's when we see the most concerns with our cattle," said Joe Moore, the agent for the UofA Division of Agriculture's Sharp County Extension Office.

He said they started having a problem with the vultures in the area about 5 years ago, but more farmers are reporting it recently.

"If you lose several calves, you know, that can add up to right around $2,400 at current market price because their goal is to get that calf from birth to weaning so it's a huge concern for cattle farmers," Moore said.

Crawford said this, of course, not only affects the cash flow for the individual farmer but disrupts the entire food market at the state and national levels.

It then hurts consumers because when demand is high but supply is low, people pay more for beef at the grocery store.

In hopes of combating this issue, Crawford has reached out to United States Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to get a waiver for cattle farmers to kill more black vultures.

"Particularly since this bird is not migratory but still considered under the MBTA, we need a waiver here so we can thin out the population and allow our cattlemen to protect their calves," Crawford said.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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