Farmers focused on vulture problem during calving season

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

SHARP COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Farmers in Region 8, especially in Sharp County, are still facing the problem of black vultures.

Since spring calving season is almost here, the predatory birds are again at the forefront of many minds after several local farmers have lost cows to them in the past year.

The buzzards are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that was established in 1918, even though some studies show they do not actually migrate.

Since cows here calve in both the spring and fall, there is a steady supply of prey for the birds.

"For many producers, it's very important because raising cattle is their livelihood," Sharp County farmer and Arkansas Angus Association Board Member John Kunkel said. "If you lose one calf, you lose an entire crop for that cow through the year."

Kunkel said that can be a $500-$800 loss for the farmer.

To try and prevent losing cattle, Kunkel has gone through the process of getting a depredation permit, which allows him to kill a percentage of the vultures on his farm.

"It starts out with contacting the USDA in Little Rock and they'll actually come out to your farm and inspect it," Kunkel said. "And they'll actually give you a form to fill out and send into the U.S. Wildlife in Atlanta. It is a lengthy process like I said, but they are very cooperative in working with us. And their most important piece is protecting the farmer as well."

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture – Extension and the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association is also reminding farmers to report any loss of cattle by black vultures to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's state office in Little Rock as well as taking pictures of the damage for evidence.

Documenting loss could aid in the push by some state representatives to try and get a waiver for Arkansas ranchers to thin the vulture's population since they are causing a large problem here.

"It, [the depredation permit] is a Band-Aid for the problem," Kunkel said. "Contact your local representative, your local senator, and just voice your concern about how do we get better protection for the farmers and the ranchers from these vultures."

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