Friday, August 12, 2016

Black Vultures Are Protected By Treaty, But Eating the Profits of Oklahoma Ranchers

This is the centennial year of the Migratory Bird Treaty. The compact between the United States and Canada assures many birds can travel undisturbed, but the international agreement protects one species that’s a menace to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. Frank Lawrence is sick of the black vultures he’s been dealing with his entire life as a rancher in southeast Oklahoma. “When a cow has a calf, they’re just sitting there in a tree, ready to get a hold of it,” Lawrence says. “It pecks their eyes out, and one of mine, it pecked its naval. Its intestines were sticking out. I took it to the vet and it died.” The black birds don’t have any fans at this monthly meeting of the Latimer County Farm Bureau at the Eaton Hole in Wilburton, and they aren’t exactly dinner conversation. Trying to scare the birds off just makes them vomit, providing a source of food and more reason to stick around. But black vultures are also protected by international treaty and U.S. law, even though their numbers are going strong. That protection means ranchers, like Lane Jeffrey, can’t just shoot them. “You don’t want to get thrown in jail for shooting a protected species when you’re just out there trying to protect your livestock,” he says. “It is unlawful at any time, by any means, or in any manner, go after them, hunt them, kill them, sell them, possess them, offer them for sale, transport them,” says Kristin Madden with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They weren’t one of the birds that were originally named in the treaty in 1916, but when the act went in in 1918 they fell under ‘birds that naturally occur in the United States.”...more

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