Virginia legislators take aim at black vultures

AFP Correspondent

RICHMOND, Va. (March 1, 2016) — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have approved legislation that will give the state’s livestock producers a new tool in protecting their young animals from a growing predatory threat, the black vulture.
At press time, the legislation was awaiting review and signing by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
He had until midnight Feb. 29 to sign the bill into law, sources reported.
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr. of the 40th Virginia Senatorial District.
“Unlike their cousin the turkey vulture, black vultures can be aggressive and even predatory resulting in the death of livestock especially during the calving or lambing season,” Carrico said. “Senate Bill 37 is a responsible approach to address concerns brought to me by farmers in the 40th District who were experiencing livestock losses from black vultures.”
“This is worth millions at the farm gate and to Virginia’s second largest agricultural commodity in economic terms,” Jason Carter, executive secretary of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association said.
“As recently as 2011 and by USDA’s own estimates, black vultures contribute to 13 percent of all newborn calf mortality in Virginia and nearly 8 percent of total cattle death losses” Carter said.
VCA, the Virginia State Dairy Association and Virginia Farm Bureau Federation lobbied for the bill.
“If signed, SB37 would represent a much needed step forwards in dealing with an issue that has longed plagued dairy producers,” Eric Paulson, executive secretary of VSDA said. “This bill directs the VDACS to work with the relevant federal agencies to coordinate their efforts in dealing with the black vultures in cases where they are causing damage. By coordinating their efforts, it leverages the state and federal resources and makes sure that all of the parties are working towards similar solutions.”
The bill as passed reads as follows:
“The Commissioner may enter into agreements with local and state agencies or other persons for the control of black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and other wildlife that pose a danger to agricultural animals.
“The Commissioner shall enter into agreement with the federal government to establish and maintain the Virginia Cooperative Wildlife Damage Program.”
“The current coyote program is a great example on how this cooperation can be successful and a valuable resource to those producers that find themselves in a situation where the species has caused property damage and losses,” Paulson wrote in an e-mail. “Black vultures impact many sectors of the agriculture industry and non-farming Virginians also deal with the damage they cause and this bill will hopefully provide relief to all those impacted. The Virginia Dairymen worked closely with Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association crafting the language in the bill and educating the lawmakers on the issue. We are very appreciative of the legislators who have helped get the bill onto the Governor’s desk.”
Farmers’ hands have been tied in fighting the black vultures because they are currently protected by the Federal Migratory Treaty Act.
“This drastically limits what officials can do particularly to deal with problem vultures and fully prohibits any action against black vultures by any private citizen.” Carter said.
Implementation of the legislation will see the state working with the USDA Wildlife Services, Wilmer Stoneman of the VFBF said. While it will become law July 1, 2016, it will probably not become a reality until early 2017, he noted.
This time lapse is needed to for all agencies to work out the details, he said.