Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Sen. Stephens holds interim study on black vultures and harm to livestock

I attend church in a rural community, where many of the members have a hand in ranching. I've heard most of them discuss this problem over the past several years, particularly during calving.

Sen. Stephens holds interim study on predatory birds and harm to livestock, property

 OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Blake “Cowboy” Stephens held an interim study Monday to look into the significant harm done to livestock and property by predatory birds. Stephens, R-Tahlequah, said the most destructive is the black vulture.

“Most people have no idea how deadly and vicious black vultures can be for livestock.  They will attack baby calves as they are being born and literally eat them alive, and they’ll attack the mother as she’s giving birth,” Stephens said.  “It is a gruesome situation that can cost a family thousands of dollars in lost livestock, but their hands are literally tied by federal law.”

Stephens said black vultures are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Oklahomans can get a permit to take up to five birds per permit, per year, but Stephens said that’s woefully inadequate to address the exploding population of vultures.

“We heard testimony from numerous agriculture experts and producers who said the numbers of black vultures have definitely increased over the past 60 years.  Not only do they kill cattle, but they also kill sheep, and there have been reports of the loss of horses, donkeys, goats and other animals,” Stephens said.  “But beyond that, they destroy property.  They’ll pick shingles off of roofs, tear the rubber off of windshield wipers, and destroy wiring on transmission lines and cell towers. The birds’ feces is acidic, and it can actually cause holes to form in the metal in water towers and other structures.”

Testimony was given by Chuck Roberts with Oklahoma Farm Bureau Insurance; Neal Boatwright, a farmer from Cherokee County; Dr. Dwayne Elmore with Oklahoma State University; Scott Blubaugh, president of American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance; and Scott Alls, state director, United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Services.  The livestream of the full hearing can be viewed at  

After the study, Stephens said the five-bird cap needs to be eliminated and citizens need to be able to actually set up traps, which can be far more effective than hunting the vultures with guns.  These changes, however, must come at the federal level.

“This study is one way to raise awareness and help us bring this problem to the attention of the federal government.  We want to work with our federal delegation as well to try and get something done and provide a pathway for livestock producers to be able to protect their own animals without being in violation of the law.”


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