The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 4, 2013

Vultures, wild boars cause problems for local farmers

By Caleb Odom
For The News Courier

— It’s not coyotes tearing up crops or attacking livestock in North Alabama, it’s wild boars and vultures.

Wild boars cause headaches for corn farmers because the hungry hogs tear through a field when feeding.

“They’ll eat every seed down a row,” said Shane Seay, Limestone County Farm Service Agency executive director. Seay said wild boars can weigh anywhere from 300 to 400 pounds and have a mean streak when threatened.

Farmers are taking steps to fight wild boars with crop depredation permits. The permits allow them to kill the animals to protect their crops as long as the swine are properly disposed.

The problem is wild boars reproduce faster than they can be killed.

According to Seay, a mother sow can produce two litters of piglets every year and each litter can have as many as a dozen piglets.

Seay said some farmers set traps for the wild boar using corn but often they are too smart to be trapped and have learned to scatter at the sound of a truck.

Only half the problem

The planting of more corn compared to cotton in recent years has helped increase the wild boar feeding frenzy.

But wild boars are only half the problem.

There have been at least two accounts this year of vultures killing calves.

Donna Jo Curtis, president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association had a newborn calf killed by the birds of prey.

“They can do some damage,” she said, explaining that the vultures ganged up on the calf, and the mother heifer couldn’t fight them off.

Known primarily as scavengers that eat dead animals, vultures can, on rare occasions, take down small animals.

Because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act established in 1918, landowners cannot just shoot a vulture; they have to first attempt to scare the birds away before obtaining a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit.

The permit allows people to trap or kill specified birds like vultures to protect personal property and protect human health and safety as long as the landowner incorporates scare tactics during the process.