Hyde-Smith, Collegues target predatory black vultures with new legislation

Published 3:02 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today joined U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) in introducing legislation to allow farmers and ranchers to protect their newborn livestock from black vultures without burdensome government interference.

The Black Vulture Relief Act of 2023 would provide regulatory relief by allowing farmers and ranchers to take black vultures anytime the birds threaten their livestock without a depredation permit.  Black vultures, whose population has increased by 468 percent since 1990, are known to attack livestock, especially calves.  These attacks are gruesome, often lasting hours, and cost ranchers an average of $2,000 per calf killed.

“Livestock producers operate on thin margins,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The struggle to make a profit is made harder by unnecessary regulations that limit their ability to protect their animals.  Our commonsense legislation would ease those restrictions to give producers a fighting chance to protect their livestock from the growing number of black vultures, which are truly vile predators.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Oklahoma ranchers should have the right to protect their livestock from nasty predators that threaten their livelihoods,” said Mullin.  “Attacks from black vultures have become far too common and our livestock producers are suffering the consequences.  As a rancher myself, I know firsthand the implications of the rapidly growing black vulture population and the negative effect this has on livestock production.  Removing the requirement for a depredation permit will allow Oklahomans, including small and family-run ranches, the ability to do what is necessary to protect their livestock and reduce economic hardship.  The current federal regulation is outdated, and it’s vital to the livelihood of ranchers across the country that we get this fixed.”

“Black vultures pose a huge threat to our livestock farmers and producers,” Tuberville said.  “Government red tape is preventing farmers from protecting newborn calves and growing their herd.  Our producers need a larger, more comprehensive approach to removing these predators.  This bill will provide much needed relief and security to our nation’s cattlemen.”

Despite being listed as a species of lowest conservation concern, black vultures remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it illegal to take one without a depredation permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).

FWS currently operates a pilot program that allows state entities to register for a master permit and disburse sub-permits through individual states to ranchers.  However, these sub-permits limit ranchers to 3-5 black vulture takes per year, even though attacks normally involve 20+ black vultures at a time.

Introduced by Mullin, the Black Vulture Relief Act of 2023 would:

  1. Remove the requirement for a depredation permit, allowing farmers and ranchers to take black vultures anytime the birds threaten their livestock.
  2. Preserve the requirement for annual take reporting to FWS, allowing FWS to continue monitoring black vulture population numbers.

The legislation has been endorsed by the:  American Farm Bureau Federation and six state farm bureaus (Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania); U.S. Cattlemen’s Association; National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, 17 state cattlemen’s affiliates (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia); and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation.