As many as 12 black vultures can be seen hovering above John Hardin’s fields in southern Indiana’s Scott County. They are ready to spot weak, vulnerable or cold cows. Unlike their turkey vulture cousins, which are easy to spot with their red heads, black vultures don’t always wait for their meals to be dead.
Hardin stated, “The black vultures… now that’s an aggressive bird. “They are basically trying to kill the cows and calves or waiting for them to die.”
Like most vultures, black vultures can survive by eating the carcasses of dead animals. This can be an important part of the ecosystem, as it allows for the consumption of diseased remains that could spread illness to other animals. Black vultures are not like Indiana’s turkey-vultures. They also prefer living animals, such as calves, piglets and lambs.
Hardin sees them almost every day as he walks out of his front door. Many times they are perched on the roof of his neighbor’s barn roof or resting on a nearby fence post — waiting, watching.
Hardin admitted that it may sound alarming, but in a way it is.
Black vultures have caused the loss of at least two, possibly even four livestock farmers in recent years.
Hardin stated that one of the worst things in animal husbandry is to see an animal die. Vultures are a good example. They grab the calf’s head and pick at his face, mouth, and navel. The calf won’t be able to make it for long.
Hardin is one of many farmers dealing with what many call a “reign of terror” caused by black vultures. However, these birds are protected by an international law that regulates hunting of migratory bird. This fact has left state livestock producers with limited tools and varying degrees of success in dealing with these birds.