Black vulture depredation permit program in Texas

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

It’s what ranchers don’t want to see — black vultures circling a pasture, especially when livestock are being born. But it’s becoming a more common occurrence as black vultures expand their range northward due to warmer weather and man-made roosting and nesting structures.

There are two types of vultures in Texas—the turkey vulture and the black vulture. Turkey vultures find their food by their sense of smell, but black vultures find their food through eyesight.

Black vultures can key in on areas where livestock are having their young.

While they provide an essential ecological service by cleaning up carcasses, they also can kill young livestock.

The problem has only worsened over the years. The growth in numbers and range has led to increased black vulture predation on newborn livestock.

Twenty, 30 years ago, black vultures were largely found in Texas south of I-10, but they’ve expanded their range considerably up into the South Panhandle and other northern parts of Texas.

Black vultures have a feeding range of up to 30 miles per day, meaning they will travel far from their nesting area to find a carcass or small animal.

So, we have a lot more birds. We have them over a lot larger part of the state, and they’re very aggressive in terms of competing with each other for food. There’s much more livestock loss today than there was 20 or 30 years ago.

Black vultures, however, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and livestock producers are limited in how they can keep the birds from attacking their livestock.

To help Texas ranchers who are losing livestock to black vultures, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted a permit to the Texas Wildlife Damage Management Association (TWDMA) for black vulture management for the lethal removal of up to 750 vultures. TWDMA is a member of the cooperative TWS.

Ranchers can apply for sub-permits through TWS, which would allow them to remove up to five black vultures each during the year.

The depredation sub-permits allow for the lethal removal of a limited number of vultures to reinforce the non-injurious harassment.

Landowners who want to use non-injurious methods do not need to participate in this program The program is only for those who might need to remove a small number of vultures to reinforce the non-lethal hazing.

Those methods include auditory and visual dispersal methods like lasers and propane cannons.

Landowners and ranchers can go out there and chase birds away from their livestock. They can bring their livestock closer to the house, where they can keep an eye on them giving birth. Black vultures can be deterred from small pastures with things like effigies, artificial vultures or dead vultures. So that will haze them out of an area for a while. You can use noisemakers, dogs—whatever doesn’t injure the bird.

He noted TWS also recommends ranchers hang the dead vultures in a nearby tree because vultures don’t like to come near a dead vulture.

Using a vulture that’s shot as an effigy or using an artificial effigy—a body that looks like a vulture with wings and a head, hung upside down in trees around the pasture—can help keep vultures out of those areas. We recommend one effigy to about five acres. So, you couldn’t do this in a large pasture, but it you have a confined area where livestock are giving birth, the effigies are useful as a way of hazing vultures out of the area.

For more information on black vulture depredation management, call TWS at one of the district offices:

Canyon: 806-651-2880

College Station: 979-599-5070

Corpus Christi: 361-299-1176

Ft. Stockton: 432-360-1122

Ft. Worth: 817-978-3146

Kerrville: 830-896-6535

San Angelo: 325-655-6101

Uvalde: 830-278-4464

Wildflower season

As wildflowers, including the state flower the bluebonnet, return to the Texas landscape and on roadsides throughout the state, many people will want to take this opportunity to get some photos of their colorful display.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts are reminding those who want to take wildflower photos to be careful of traffic and respect private property and nature in their quest for that perfect picture.

Picking your spot

The Texas Department of Public Safety, DPS, encourages motorists not to impede traffic and to be cautious when slowing down or stopping to enjoy the sight of wildflowers on the roadside. 

If you decide to stop on the roadside to admire the flowers or take photos, choose an area with adequate space and light traffic conditions. 

Legal considerations

While there is no longer a law against picking wildflowers in Texas, including the most popular of all – the bluebonnet – there are still laws against trespassing and damaging or destroying rights of way and government property. Additionally, it is a Class C misdemeanor to collect plants, animals or rocks from state parks.

“Those people admiring flowers or taking photos of them must consider laws against both civil and criminal trespass,” said Tiffany Lashmet, J.D., AgriLife Extension agricultural law specialist, Amarillo. “Individuals should also be cautious of snakes, fire ants and other potential dangers while observing or photographing wildflowers.”

Lashmet said those wanting to take photos should first see if the property they want to be on is privately owned.

If it’s private property, you need to get permission before you proceed. Otherwise, you may be guilty of trespassing. But don’t take it personally if some landowners don’t allow you on their property as they may have legitimate reasons for denying you permission. 

While picking a few wildflowers in areas open to the public or on private property with landowner permission may be legal, people shouldn’t dig up large patches of flowers or drive their vehicle onto fields.

Getting a perspective

Since bluebonnets usually grow in or around tall grasses, those taking photos should also be alert to the possibility of snakes and insects, especially fire ants, which are particularly prevalent in the state.

Avoid trampling on some flowers to get to others, and plan to catch the flowers in their best light.

The best time to take wildflower photos is what photographers call “the golden hour” – the time just after dawn or just before dusk, when the colors are more vivid.

“But realistically, most people have to shoot their photos whenever their personal or family schedule allows them the opportunity, so those times of the day are not always an option.

Another thing to consider for protecting the flowers is that your subject doesn’t have to be directly in the flowers for you to get a great photo. The subject can be in front of the flowers or in back of them and appear as if he or she is actually in them. You just have to use a little perspective.

He also noted that this spring, in particular, those shooting wildflower photos should take extra precautions due to the dry and often windy conditions.

These are prime conditions for the possibility of a wildfire, so people should be extra careful not to use or do anything that might cause a fire, including leaving a vehicle in a location where the heat from underneath could ignite the dry grass.  

Texas Highways magazine has two online articles, “Wildflowers of Texas” and “Everything You Need to Know About Texas Wildflower Season” to help wildflower aficionados locate and identify the abundance of wildflowers throughout the state.

Disaster relief fund assistance applications are open

Applications will be accepted within 60 days of damage.

For cattle raisers financially burdened by March wildfires, assistance is on the way.

Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association opened applications for the TSCRA Disaster Relief Fund. Applications will be accepted within 60 days of when the damage took place.

“The funds will go directly to cattle raisers who need it,” Arthur Uhl, TSCRA president said. “The more we collect, the more we can give and the more who can benefit.”

The disaster relief program is designed to provide financial assistance to ranchers in Texas and Oklahoma who are victims of a natural disaster and consequentially are financially needy or otherwise distressed. Assistance funds are designated for damage that occurred in disaster counties as declared by Governor Abbott. To apply for assistance funds, visit tscra.org/disasterreliefapp.

Donations are still being accepted, and since the fund is administered through the association’s 501(c)3 organization, all contributions are tax-deductible. To make a charitable donation, visit PayPal.com. Checks payable to TSCRA Disaster Relief Fund can also be mailed to PO Box 101988, Fort Worth, Texas 76185.