MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) - Southern Illinois cattle farms are facing a threat from black vultures, according to cattle producers.
The birds are preying on young calves on a growing number of cattle farms, The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reported.
Gary Tretter II has a 60-cow herd near Murphysboro. He said he has lost four calves this year to vulture attacks. Several of his Jackson County neighbors have also experienced calf kills in which vultures are suspected.
Tretter said the attacks are a concern not just because of economic loss, but because of the suffering the vultures inflict.
“It appears that they get the eyes, and after they get the calf disoriented, a couple of them will go around to its rear end, and then the calf will bleed out,” Tretter said. “I feel so bad for the calves.”
Newborn calves are at the most risk, but Tretter said vultures have attacked and killed calves in his herd as old as two weeks.
Jeff Beasley, who farms near Carrier Mills, said birds have bothered cows in his herd. He said he keeps his animals close to the barn and is more vigilant during calving season.
“When a cow passes her afterbirth, we try to pick it up and remove it from the field,” Beasley said. “I would say if we didn’t watch it closely, we would have lost a few calves over the years.”
University of Illinois Extension beef educator Teresa Steckler said she doesn’t remember vultures being active during past calving seasons.
“I don’t know if they’ve extended their range, but it does seem like numbers have increased somewhat,” Steckler said.
Southern Illinois is at the northern point of the black vulture’s range in North America. The birds are part-time predators, known to gang up on young animals.
Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com
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