WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Trey Hollingsworth’s (IN-09) amendment to address the deadly and costly black vulture attacks on livestock during calving season passed the House as part of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). H.R. 2 passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 213 to 211.
“At an agriculture townhall in Washington County, a Hoosier farmer shared his story about how black vultures are destroying livestock,” said Representative Trey Hollingsworth. “Thanks to this feedback, I introduced this amendment to allow cattle farmers to proactively take limited action to prevent damage or destruction of livestock by predatory black vultures.”
Read the full text of the amendment, here.
Migratory black vultures are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which provides for the protection of all migratory birds in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Unlike endangered species, black vultures have a conservation status of “Least Concern,” and they are a costly nuisance to livestock farmers during calving season because they attack and destroy newborn calves and other young livestock animals. According to the most recent 2010 data from the Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), 11,900 cattle and calf deaths valued at $4.64 million have been attributed to vultures. In 2010, USDA estimated the total monetary loss from all cattle/calf predation to be $98.48 million. Black vulture impacts to livestock extend to pigs, goats and sheep, but comparable economic data are not available.
Currently, livestock farmers may apply for limited depredation permits from US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), but the permits cost $100, must be renewed each year, and may only be approved after damage to property has already occurred. As migratory birds, black vultures will descend upon farms in the southeast and Midwest with little warning, damage and destroy livestock, and be gone by the time the farmer can produce proof of damage, apply for the permit, and receive it several days later.
Though first-time farmer applicants may petition to have the application fee waived, the process serves little purpose or recourse for farmers losing property by the hour while awaiting FWS permit approval.
This amendment would direct the Secretary of the Interior, in conjunction with the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to amend its currently existing black vulture depredation permitting process to authorize certain livestock farmers to proactively engage in the permitted taking of black vultures to prevent damage to livestock during calving season.
This would only be available to specified livestock farmers in certain states and regions during specific periods of time when damage from predatory black vultures is most severe, as determined by the Secretary and the Director. Farmers in Indiana would be eligible.
The amendment also requires any farmers who take black vultures under the state or regionwide depredation permit to report to the appropriate enforcement agencies the takings of black vultures; it does not alter existing prohibitions or regulations regarding the sport hunting of migratory birds, and it does not alter existing prohibitions or regulations regarding the sale or trade of migratory birds taken under depredation permits.
Both Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson of the House Agriculture Committee spoke in support of the amendment which was adopted by voice.