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— Vulture replicas are more than just a scary Halloween decoration for some Arkansas home- and farm-owners.

Vulture problems are among the top five assistance activities for USA Wildlife Services in Arkansas, but strategically placed replicas can act like scarecrows, scaring vultures away, according to Becky McPeake, associate professor with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Most people assume vultures, or buzzards, are purely scavengers, but that’s not necessarily so.

“Adult turkey vultures, identifiable by their red heads, are almost exclusively scavengers, whereas black vultures also attack and kill live animals including newborn livestock,” she said.

The United States Department of Agriculture said black vultures can inflict gruesome damage to livestock by “plucking the eyes and eating the tongues of the newborn, down or sick livestock, disemboweling young livestock, killing and feeding on domestic fowl and general flesh wounds from bites.”

Vultures can cause other problems too.

“Buzzard droppings can kill trees and pose health risks around homes, public areas and boat docks,” McPeake said.

Unlike most birds, buzzards don’t build nests, nor do they roost in the same place every night. However, they tend to congregate in huge communal roosts. Replicas, placed near the roosts of buzzards, “almost always cause abandonment of the roost within three to five days,” according to the National Wildlife Research Center in Florida.

The Wildlife Research Center found that the replicas didn’t have to appear exactly like a vulture, but the most effective ones are those that have a likeness and size close to a full-grown vulture. The key, the center reported, was having a replica with feathers that is around 25 to 26 inches in length — the length of an adult vulture.

The vulture replicas, which can be purchased online or from Halloween vendors, can be hung upside down by the legs so the wing feathers splay outward.

“Around smaller livestock operations, problems with vultures are alleviated with constant vigilance and persistent harassment,” McPeake said. “However, this procedure is usually more difficult to maintain at larger livestock operations.” Likewise, vultures that have been allowed to occupy an area are more difficult to drive away, according to the USDA. Insuchcases,thedepartment advises using laser pointers and “pyrotechnics fired from a 15-millimeter launcher (starter pistol), shell crackers firedfroma12-gaugeshotgun or propane cannons.”

State and local laws should be consulted before using pyrotechnics to harass the birds, which are protected under state and federal law.

The USDA Wildlife Services field office in Stuttgart can be contacted at 870-673-1121 for additional information and assistance.

News, Pages 11 on 12/09/2009

Print Headline: Vultures, Common In Area, Can Cause Many Problems

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