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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Responses of Black Vultures to Roost Dispersal in Radford, Virginia


Depredations to livestock by black vultures are a concern for many producers, and there is an increasing need for effective means to alleviate conflicts between livestock and vultures. One approach to this problem is to identify the roost site that is the source of the offending birds and then disperse that roost. We evaluated this approach in southwestern Virginia, where sheep and cattle operations in the New River Valley have historically experienced depredations by black vultures. During February 2004, we trapped and tagged 200 vultures and equipped 20 of them with radio transmitters. We established data-logger receiving stations at the main roost site in Radford, VA and at 4 nearby livestock operations. We monitored vulture use of the roost and the livestock sites for 2 weeks and then we dispersed the Radford roost using vulture effigies and hand-held lasers. We continued to monitor vulture activity at the livestock study sites for 8 weeks. Our findings showed that although the roost in Radford was dispersed, vulture use of the livestock operations after roost dispersal did not differ from pre-dispersal activity. Vultures in the area apparently shifted to alternate roost sites with no noticeable disruption to their foraging activities. For roost management to be effective against livestock depredations, dispersal activity must include the ancillary roosts as well as the main roost. Furthermore, prompt removal and proper disposal of livestock carcasses should greatly reduce the attractiveness of cattle and sheep operations for foraging black vultures.

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