Black Vultures Threaten Farmers' Cattle - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Black Vultures Threaten Farmers' Cattle

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MURPHYSBORO, Ill. -- Gary Tretter II comes from generations of farming families. Over the last year, he's faced an issue several farmers in Illinois and Missouri are dealing with. 

"The way that they attack the calf, you have to feel terribly sorry for the calf," Tretter said. "We would find dead calves that we was picking up with both of their eyes pecked out."

Black vultures are native to southern Illinois. They're not just scavengers like red-headed turkey vultures, they're also predatory. 

When the birds attack a calf, they distract the mother, and then at least one vulture disables a calf by blinding it with its claws. Then they attack a calf's rear end, causing it to bleed out. 

"When the cow was actually giving birth, they would attack the cow giving birth," Tretter said. "And the cow would be dead before it was even completely born." 

Black vultures are a federally protected species, so Tretter cannot kill a vulture unless he witnesses an attack the moment it happens. He's lost seven calves in six months to black vultures. 

"Six to seven calves, call them $2,000 a head, when they get sold, that's a lot of money," Tretter said. 

The Jackson County Farm Bureau in Murphysboro is holding a workshop July 25 to discuss techniques, resources and tools to ward off black vultures from cows. One recommended way to scare off black vultures is to hang an effigy of one on a tree. They say nothing scares black vultures more than a dead black vulture. 

"It didn't look very hard to make," said University of Illinois Beef Specialist Teresa Steckler. "And that was probably one of the best ways to keep the vultures away from your farm if you notice you're having a problem."

"I don't want to eliminate the birds. I just want them to leave my cows alone. I just want to figure out a way to get them to leave my cows alone. I'm not  trying to chase them from where they want to live — just find something else to eat," Tretter said. 

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