Virginia is blessed with an abundance of agricultural and natural resources. At times, this bounty can result in conflicts between farmers or homeowners with the wildlife that share our farms and neighborhoods. Vultures have adapted well to human habitats and are increasingly involved in these conflicts. Native scavengers, they play an important role in the ecosystem, but in some situations they can also cause damage to property and livestock.
Two different species are native to Virginia: Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures. Populations of both have increased in abundance and range in the past 30 years. Vultures often form large roosts and loafing groups numbering from a few dozen to hundreds of individuals.
Conflicts arise when these congregations form in close proximity to people. Both Turkey and Black Vultures normally eat carrion, or dead animals. However, Black Vultures can also attack and kill calves, lambs, piglets, and other vulnerable animals. This predatory behavior often results in serious injury to livestock, as vultures target the eyes and soft membranous tissues. These domestic animals often must be euthanized due to the extent of their injuries.
Large groups of vultures may roost or occupy woodlots near people’s homes and farms. They can damage homes and commercial buildings by tearing window caulking, roof shingles, vent seals, rubber roof liners, and pool covers. Damage to vehicles parked at these locations includes scratched paint, removal of rubber seals and wipers, and ripping of vinyl seat covers from boats and tractors.
Conflicts can be managed effectively under certain conditions. Vultures are migratory birds, regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, State laws, and regulations. It is legal to use non-lethal approaches to disperse vultures from situations where they are causing damage, though some tools may be regulated by local governments. A federal permit is needed to kill or destroy the birds, their nests or eggs.
The USDA Wildlife Services Program, a federal program, offers help with human-wildlife conflicts including vulture damage. Technical assistance may include information on habitat management, husbandry, and tools for dispersing vultures from areas where conflicts occur. Wildlife Services biologists also can help document vulture damage and start the depredation permit application process.
For more information about managing vulture damage, contact the USDA Wildlife Services Program at 804-739-7739 or any WS office in Virginia: