• From: Dawn Wilson <dmwcarrot@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: va-richmond-general@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 18:37:15 -0800 (PST)

Thank you for the information on Black Vulture life history and the USDA-DGIF 
summary of the Dutch Gap situation.   
  Your reply indicates that concern over this issue is unwarranted.  In my 
opinion, there are other "simple facts" as well.  Foremost is the fact that the 
USDA has provided no sound biological justification about what effect removing 
this quantity of birds will have  on the overall population.  (It's clear from 
the USDA statement you posted.)  In addition: 
  1) The actual size of the VA population is currently unknown, so the 
percentage of the population that the USDA plans to harvest is also unknown. 
Vultures first breeding occurs when they are 8 years old (not "unknown" as your 
info implies), so USDA will not know how deeply they are impacting the breeding 
proporiton of the population. 
  2) These birds' breeding points of orgin is also unknown, so the USDA can't 
be certain that they are not killing individuals from populations in other 
areas that might be of conservation concern.  It is also likely that other 
birds from neighboring areas will come to Henricus once they identify food 
there, the carrion that USDA will bait them with.  How can anyone be certain 
then that those off-site birds won't be exterminated too?  
  3) Vulture rely on "roosts" to gather info on finding food.  This is one of 
the reasons behind establishing Conservation Lands for some species of 
  Although the USDA considers Black Vultures to be an invasive pest (even 
though they're a Virginia endemic), but the state's/nation's money-makers, some 
deer and fish populations, are overlooked even though they cause much more 
damage and human casualities.  Note: I'm defintely NOT advocating the killing 
of any other animals or species-- just wanted to bring it to attention.
  Only a very, very small percentage of the human population- the boaters who 
use the Park, specifically-  will actually benefit from killing the vultures.  

John Caroline Coe <johncaroline@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
  Please look at all the facts when you consider the Black Vultures at
Dutch Gap. I'm enclosing information from USDA - Wildlife Services and
the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Caroline Coe
Chesterfield County


Black Vulture Facts

· Description - Black Vultures are large birds that have a 5-foot
wingspan and weigh approximately 3-5 pounds. Their plumage is almost
entirely black, except for the outer edge of the wings which are white
with black tips. Black Vultures have a short, square tail and an
unfeathered head that is gray and wrinkled. 

· Habitat - Black Vultures utilize woodlands for nesting, loafing, and
roosting. They forage in open areas in order to search for carcasses. 
Black Vultures tend to be most abundant in flat lowlands and are less
common at high elevations. Black Vultures communally roost in woodlands
with tall trees, often near water. Man-made structures such as power
transmission towers and cell towers are frequently used for roosting.

· Range and Migration - Black Vultures breed throughout Central and South
America and throughout much of the eastern United States. They are
year-long residents throughout much of this range but, during the winter
months, many individuals migrate from northern portions of the species?
range and from higher altitudes to more hospitable areas. Black Vultures
often make short distance movements when weather patterns become

· Food Habits - Black Vultures feed almost exclusively on carrion, but
they occasionally take live prey.

· Breeding - Breeding pairs of Black Vultures are thought to remain
together throughout the year. They do not build a nest, but lay eggs
directly on the ground of their nest site. Nest sites include thickets,
old buildings, and under trees and logs. Typically, two eggs are laid
sometime between mid-February and early April. Eggs are incubated for
38-39 days. Young are slow-growing and do not fledge until 75-80 days of
age. Age of first breeding is unknown; this is one of the issues being
studied via the morphological data being recorded during this project.

· Population Estimates - The number of Black Vultures residing in
Virginia is unknown. However, several population estimates were recently
derived from Breeding Bird Survey data. These estimates range from
16,000 to over 20,000 individuals. Breeding Bird Survey data suggests
that the Black Vulture population in Virginia is increasing at a rate of
approximately 14.3% per year.

Dutch Gap Vulture Background and Status

· History of Black Vultures and Damage at Dutch Gap - Black Vultures
have utilized the Dutch Gap area as early as the 1980s for roosting and
loafing. During the 1990s, vulture use of the area increased
significantly, possibly due to loss of preferred roost sites to
residential and commercial development. In 1999, Black Vultures at the
Dutch Gap boat ramp were documented damaging cars by scratching paint,
pulling off windshield wipers and moldings, and tearing car covers; they
also were leaving fecal matter and vomit on vehicles, boat trailers, and
the boat landing grounds. The vultures extensively loaf on Dominion?s
power station facilities, creating a safety/health hazard due to
excrement on walkways and other equipment.

· Past Actions to alleviate the problem - In response to the problem
USDA-WS employed numerous non-lethal methods (e.g., noise making devices,
lasers, effigies, etc.) to displace vultures from the area from 1999
through 2001. These methods were largely unsuccessful. The only
remaining alternative to eliminate the problem was depopulation of
roosting birds by lethal take. In 2002 USDA-WS trapped and euthanized
approximately 370 Black Vultures, and this alleviated the problem for
several months. Since 2002 however, Black Vulture numbers have rebounded
to approximately 200-300 individuals regularly roosting at Dutch Gap,
resuming damage to property and creating a significant safety/health
hazard at the boat ramp and the Dominion Power station.

December 2005 Black Vulture Depopulation

· Project Development and Coordination - The lead government agency
conducting the depopulation project is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture?s Wildlife Services Section (USDA-WS). The project is being
conducted under a federal migratory bird depredation/damage permit issued
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with concurrence by DGIF. The
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries carefully evaluated the
project and is working cooperatively with USDA-WS to resolve the Black
Vulture problem at Dutch Gap. Nongovernment groups involved with
resolution of this problem include Henricus Park, Dominion Power,
Castaway Sporting Goods, and local anglers.

· Protocol/Duration of the Project - Black Vultures are the only species
causing a problem at the site, and are the only species to be trapped and
killed. Black Vultures will be trapped by use of a large funnel trap
baited with deer or beaver carcasses. Once vultures are trapped they
will be euthanized. The carcasses will be measured, aged, and sexed to
gain more information about the age structure and sex ratio of this local
population; and tissue samples will be collected for laboratory analysis.
In addition, at least 200 carcasses will be provided to federal
scientists for ongoing research on vulture life history and ecology. 
Trapping will take place for approximately one week or until the
population is reduced to non-problematic levels: we anticipate lethal
take of 350-450 Black Vultures.

Additional Monitoring and Research Efforts

· Tag and Release of 20 Vultures - At the onset of the trapping effort,
20 individuals (10 adults and 10 juveniles) will be tagged with a white
wing marker that will have a unique three letter alpha code assigned to
each individual, and then released. These white markers are visible
while the bird is perched and are often visible in flight as well. We
encourage any wildlife enthusiasts who see these tagged vultures to
report them via email to: dgifweb@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx If possible, report
the date, time of day, location, activity of the bird (feeding, roosting,
loafing, flying), and the tag number. 

· Post-depopulation Monitoring - Surveys will be conducted once a week
for several weeks in the Dutch Gap area to assess the abundance of
vultures using the area. Surveys will be conducted by local anglers and
USDA-WS staff. In addition, an effort will be made to locate tagged
individuals to gain a better understanding of Black Vulture movement
patterns at the site.


USDA - Wildlife Services
Martin Lowney, State Director, Virginia
P.O. Box 130
Moseley, VA 23120
(804) 739-7739 / FAX (804) 739-7738

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
Jeff Cooper
Wildlife Diversity Division
Va. Dept. Game & Inland Fisheries
1320 Belman Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
(540) 899-4169
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