Wildlife

When Does The Buffet Open?

Black Vultures waiting to get a bite out of this Louisiana road kill Feral hog. The oldest Black Vulture on record was at least 25 years, 6 months old and they may live even longer in captivity. The oldest known feral sow, which was documented to still be capable of breeding, was 14 years of age.

In the U.S., Black Vultures are outnumbered by their red-headed relatives, Turkey Vultures, but they have a huge range and are the most numerous vulture in the Western Hemisphere.

Turkey Vultures have an excellent sense of smell, but Black Vultures aren’t nearly as accomplished sniffers. To find food they soar high in the sky and keep an eye on the lower-soaring Turkey Vultures. When a Turkey Vulture’s nose detects the delicious aroma of decaying flesh and descends on a carcass, the Black Vulture follows close behind.

One-on-one at a carcass, Black Vultures lose out to the slightly larger Turkey Vulture. But flocks of Black Vultures can quickly take over a carcass and drive the more solitary Turkey Vultures away. Black Vultures lack a voice box and so their vocal abilities are limited to making raspy hisses and grunts. Although Black Vultures and their relatives live only in North and South America, the oldest fossils from this group—at least 34 million years old—were found in Europe.

Keep your eyes to the skies on warm days for Black Vultures soaring high up on thermals. Their broad, forward-canted wings, small head, and short tail give them a distinctive silhouette even if you can’t see any color. They also have a distinctive flight style, giving a few deep, rapid wingbeats and then snapping their wings out wide a little like a baseball umpire signaling “Safe.” In the morning while the air is still cool, look for flocks perched in roost trees or structures, where you may see them spreading their wings to catch the sun. You may also spot these vultures gathering at roadkill or around dumpsters.

  • Feral hogs are present in all 64 parishes in Louisiana. Louisiana’s population is estimated at 500,000.
  • Gestation is 114 days and feral sows can have 2 litters per year averaging 6 piglets per litter. Statisticians have determined that 75 percent of the population must be harvested to maintain a static population.
  • Feral hogs are omnivores and can adapt to nearly any environment from desert to marsh to piney woods and hardwoods and can even survive in sub-arctic conditions.
  • Feral hogs impact wildlife by direct competition for hard mast resources and by predation on reptiles, amphibians, ground-nesting bird eggs and mammals including deer fawns.
  • Feral hogs uproot both planted and naturally regenerated coniferous and hardwood seedlings. Additionally, their heavy consumption of hard mast significantly reduces natural forest regeneration.
  • They increase erosion and shed coliform bacteria into waterways.
  • Feral hogs heavily impact agriculture, uprooting planted seeds, destroying mature crops and uprooting hay fields making hay cutting difficult to impossible.
  • Hog control methods now currently used in Louisiana include recreational hunting and trapping by private landowners, daylight and night time shooting and aerial gunning via helicopter.
  • Possible hog control methods being researched including toxicants such as sodium nitrite and genetically-based contraception.
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