Vulture Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Overview of Damage Prevention
and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

  • Eliminate sources of food, roost trees, and nest sites.
  • Dispose of dead animals, carcasses, carrion.

Exclusion

  • Bird spikes
  • Overhead monofilament grid lines
  • Netting
  • Electrical ledge products

Frightening

  • Pyrotechnics
  • Shell crackers
  • Propane cannons
  • Distress calls from other birds
  • Red lasers
  • Mylar® balloons
  • Vulture effigies

Repellents

No repellents are registered for the control of vultures. 

Toxicants

No toxicants are registered for the control of vultures.

Shooting

  • 12-gauge shotguns
  • .223, .270, or .30-06 rifles

Trapping

  • Cage traps
  • Foothold traps

Other Control Methods

  • Rocket- or cannon-fired nets
  • Compressed air nets

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

Eliminate sources of food, roost trees, and nest sites to reduce the number of vultures in an area. Removal of roost trees and pruning of branches may induce vultures to abandon a traditional roost site. 

Clean farming practices that include prompt disposal of carcasses, rendering, burial, or incineration of carcasses and protected lambing and calving areas will reduce sources of food for vultures. Black vultures often are attracted by, and feed on, afterbirth before damaging a newborn calf or lamb. The scent of afterbirth can attract vultures from a great distance. Proper disposal of afterbirth, stillborn, and other dead animals will help reduce the attraction of vultures. 

Exclusion 

Install bird spikes on ridgelines and ledges used by vultures. Use overhead monofilament grid lines and netting to exclude vultures from protected areas. Install taut wire on rooftops about 8 inches above and parallel to the ridgeline of the roof to discourage or prevent birds from perching. Maintain high tension on the wire so vultures cannot push it down, straddle it, or perch beneath it. Electrical ledge products, such as BirdShock Flex Track®and Bird Jolt Flat Track® may be effective in deterring vultures from surfaces.  

Frightening Devices 

Vultures can be harassed away from an area with pyrotechnics that are fired from a pistol launcher, shell crackers that are fired from a 12-gauge shotgun, or propane cannons. Prior to initiating a harassment program, consult state and local regulations regarding the possession and use of firearms and pyrotechnic launchers, and review ordinances on firearm discharge, noise, and bird sanctuaries. Comply with all regulations and instructions, particularly those pertaining to the use of hearing and eye protection. Use a break-action 12-gauge shotgun when using shell crackers to enable examination of the bore after each discharge to check for wadding that may have lodged in the barrel.  

Harassment with pyrotechnics and shell crackers must be diligent, persistent, diverse, and initiated as soon as the problem is recognized. Birds that have habituated to an area will be more difficult to scare away. A considerable effort must be employed to harass vultures away from a large, traditional, communal roost. At dusk, continuing until dark, fire pyrotechnics as the birds approach the roost site until the flock breaks up and disperses. Hazing should be repeated each night for up to 1 week until the vultures no longer return. Continue to use pyrotechnic harassment to divide the flock into smaller groups and to chase the birds from the area. Pyrotechnics with a shorter range fired from a handheld launcher are recommended for urban and suburban areas. Shell crackers with a range of more than 100 yards are more appropriate for use in rural situations. 

Vultures can be repelled by the distress calls of other birds including crows, starlings, and blackbirds. Recorded distress calls of birds are commercially available. Recorded distress calls should be amplified over the roost area for periods of 10 to 15 seconds, except during the last half-hour before dark, when the recording should be played continually until dark.  

Red lasers have been successful in causing most roosting birds to disperse from roost sites at nighttime or low light conditions. Persistence is necessary.  

Roosts have been dispersed by helium-filled Mylar® balloons tethered by Mylar® tape and allowed to rise into roost trees. This technique may work in areas where vultures have habituated to harassment with noise or where local ordinances preclude harassment with noise. Habituation to balloons may occur within several months to a few years.  

Vultures may be repelled by the presence of a dead or effigy vulture suspended in or near a roost tree or structure. In one case, a dead vulture was hung from a radio tower for several months and the other vultures abandoned the tower as a roost. Federal and state permits must be obtained to use vultures that are dead, but plastic and taxidermy replicas are available. 

Repellents 

No repellents are registered for the control of vultures. 

Toxicants 

No toxicants are registered for the control of vultures. 

Shooting 

Shooting is very effective for eliminating vultures that resist hazing, and it will reinforce the effectiveness of hazing. Vultures respond quickly when 1 or 2 members of a flock are killed. Use 12-gauge shotguns using 2¾- or 3-inch shells with No. 4 lead shot. Center-fire rifles such as .223, .270, or .30-06 may be used for long-range shooting in rural areas. Use of a rifle to shoot vultures must be specifically requested on the permit applications, and included as a legal technique on permits. 

Permits can be obtained from USFWS or WS. The completed application must be submitted to the USFWS, accompanied by the appropriate processing fee. Fully comply with the conditions of the permit, including the annual report of the number of vultures taken. Carry the permit during control activities. 

Trapping 

Vultures can be wary of traps. Trapped vultures often struggle and vomit to avoid their captors. State and federal permits are required for capturing vultures. 

Cage Traps 

Walk-in traps, such as the Comb’s vulture trap (Figure 6), can be constructed with 30 x 4 feet of 1- x 2-inch mesh. Fold the mesh to form 2 unequally sized chambers. Cut a gap in the barrier between the 2 chambers that is large enough to allow birds to enter. Diameters of the cage can vary from 10 to 40 feet with a height of 4 to 5 feet. The bottom can be left floorless. Install a funnel door or an inverted “V” at 1 end of the trap to let vultures enter. 

Figure 6. Comb’s vulture trap. Image by Dee Ebbeka. 

The funnel should be 8 to 10 inches in width and 12 inches tall at the entrance and narrow down to 6 to 8 inches wide. The funnel should be 12 inches in length. Install an electric fence around the trap to prevent scavenging mammals from accessing the bait. 

Foothold Traps

Vultures may safely be trapped using a sliding padded pole trap because of the tendency of vultures to perch (Figures 7a and 7b). Be aware that this trap does capture non-targets such as hawks and owls. Erect 5- to 10-foot poles around the area, where they can easily be seen by vultures. Place 1 padded steel foothold trap on top of each pole. The maximum jaw spread should be 5½ to 7¼ inches. Wrap unpadded edges of the trap with electrical tape. Remove half of the springs. Run a 12-gauge steel wire through the trap chain ring and staple it to the top and bottom of the post to allow the trap to slide to the ground where the bird can rest. Some states prohibit the use of pole traps. Pole traps must be checked regularly, ideally every 4 hours, to prevent harm to the birds.   

Figures 7a (above) and 7b (left). Pole trap for vultures. Image by Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (PCWD).

Handling 

Relocation 

Relocation of vultures is not recommended except in situations involving a rescue. 

Translocation 

The home range of vultures can be greater than a 9-mile radius, and some birds have migratory behavior, so vultures should be transported at least 100 miles and in the appropriate direction for the season. Birds should be tagged to determine if they return to the site of capture. Translocation usually is feasible only in situations involving airports, and requires federal and state permits. 

Euthanasia 

Carbon dioxide is a suitable form of euthanasia for vultures.  

Disposal 

Check your state regulations regarding disposal of carcasses.  

Other Control Methods 

Rocket- or cannon-fired nets can be effective for capturing vultures. Special licenses are needed to transport net charges. Nets fired by compressed air also are effective.