Farmers are the indisputable backbone of America, yet they have a long list of things to worry about, from government intrusion to natural disasters.
So it’s fair to say that the last thing that should keep them up at night is a predatory bird that they’re unable to kill without permission.
According to the Louisville Courier Journal, that’s unfortunately the case for many farmers, especially in the Midwest, who have to deal with black vultures.
The large birds — which literally eat newborn calves and other small farm animals alive — are a protected species.
Derek Lawson, the head herdsman for the 1,300-acre Foxhollow Farm in Oldham County, Kentucky, described how the federally protected vultures operate.
“With a vulture, it’s like someone came in with a skinning knife,” Lawson told the Courier Journal. “It’s all clean cuts. Usually, the hide’s completely cut off, whereas with a coyote or dogs, it’ll be torn and jagged.”
Both turkey vultures and black vultures are migratory birds, which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The treaty is comprehensive and also covers their nests and their eggs. The U.S. government won’t allow farmers to kill these harmful birds without a permit, which are $100 each.
The only defense farmers have against the birds if they don’t have the proper permits is deterrence, which is not easy, given the fact that the large birds can take down livestock without hesitation. Scaring them away usually only means they come back later.
According to Joe Cain, commodity division director for the Kentucky Farm Bureau, farmers lose a staggering $300,000 to $500,000 per year in livestock to the killer birds, which are native to the state, the Courier Journal reported.
Black vultures, which have an impressive 5-foot wingspan and can weigh nearly 5 pounds, will land near a calf or other similar-size farm animal and taunt it, Lawson said. The birds make sure the animal is comfortable with them around and suddenly, they’ll attack, pecking out the animal’s eyes to give them every advantage, he said.
That’s when they begin the skinning process, stripping away all available meat. Lawson said the birds are so efficient that, depending on the size of the animal they’ve attacked, they can strip its flesh within minutes.
If that isn’t a perfect B horror movie, I don’t know what is.
Permits to kill the birds also have to be renewed each year, which is yet another silly thing farmers have to add to their already incredibly long list of things to do around the farm.
The Kentucky Farm Bureau began buying the permits in bulk in 2015 to give away to farmers who aren’t able to afford them. The program was done in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
If farmers like Lawson are caught killing the birds without a permit, they can face serious consequences, including fines up to $15,000 and a possible six-month jail sentence.
Farmers, who are often underappreciated and outright ignored, have the most important job on the planet — feeding the population. So many folks, including many who work in government, simply don’t realize that without farmers, the well-stocked 24/7 grocery stores they’re used to wouldn’t exist.
It’s an absolute shame that these hard-working people are forced to spend money and time just to have the right to protect their expensive livestock from large, killer birds.
President Donald Trump has made a long list of moves to help America’s farmers, but there’s obviously more work to be done.
Hopefully, Congress will take the proper steps to fix this issue sooner than later.
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