Alabama cattlemen granted permission to shoot and kill black vultures

Some Alabama farmers given permission to kill vultures
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 4:02 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 5, 2023 at 5:41 PM CDT
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BIBB COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Big, black vultures are killing some newborn calves on Alabama farms. The problem is getting so big in fact the government has given some farmers permissions to kill them.

It’s a growing nuisance, according to the Alabama Department of Agriculture.

Long time Bibb County cattleman Ashton Cottingham tells the story of a black vulture sitting on a fence post just waiting for the right time to swoop down and begin feasting on a newborn calve; straight from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The birds are smart, cunning, and predatory.

“The opportunity for them to find one becomes more and more,” said Cottingham.

That opportunity is typically in the fall season, the season when calves are born.

“They can identify a weak or a sick calf or a sick animal and take advantage of that situation,” he said.

Also taking advantage of the situation are cattlemen such as Cottingham. A number of cattle farmers in Alabama urged the state to appeal to the federal government to kill a few black vultures. The birds are protected as migratory birds.

Permission has been granted. Each farmer now has the right to kill three a year, and no more than 500 a year statewide.

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate says the accountability factor will be based on the honor system, and that’s not all. There’s a ghoulish element as well.

“Part of the license requires you to use a shotgun. You have to use steel shots, no lead, and you have to hang the dead bird on a fence. Evidently there’s some social order there they won’t come back to that area,” said commissioner Rick Pate.

Cottingham says he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his investment. Each calf is worth around $1,600.

“This is part of it. There’s hundreds of things that affect a newborn calf and this is one of those things we have to keep an eye on.”

Loaded, cocked, and ready to aim. Farmers like Ashton Cottingham are ready for battle against their nemesis in the sky.

It should be noted no one in the agriculture industry feels this new tool will simply eradicate the black vulture, and that’s not really the goal. The goal is to mitigate the damage being done across the state.

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