OKLAHOMA CITY — State Senator Blake “Cowboy” Stephens conducted an interim study Monday, Oct. 10 to examine the extensive damage to livestock and property caused 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 to livestock. They will attack baby calves when they are born and eat them alive, and they will attack the mother while she is in labor. “, said Stephens. “It’s a horrific situation that can cost a family thousands of dollars in lost livestock, but their hands are 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 each year, but Stephens said that’s not enough to handle the population explosion.
“We’ve heard from agricultural experts and growers who say black vulture numbers have 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 rip shingles off roofs, rip rubber off windshield wipers, and destroy wiring from transmission lines and cell phone towers. Bird droppings are acidic and can actually cause holes to form in the metal of 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 of Wildlife Services for the United States Department of Agriculture and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Services. The live stream of the full hearing can be viewed at https://oksenate.gov/live-chamber.
Stephens said the cap needs to be eliminated and citizens need to be able to set traps, which can be more effective than chasing vultures with guns. These changes must take place at the federal level.