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Satellite Telemetry to Determine Movement Patterns and Soaring Altitudes of Vultures


John S. Humphrey and Michael L. Avery, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Gainesville, FL 32641 USA

The ranges of black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) are expanding in the eastern U.S. As vulture distributional patterns change, and as woodland habitat declines, vultures increasingly cause nuisance and safety problems, property damage, and depredations on livestock and captive animals. Efforts to reduce vulture numbers consist mainly of harassment techniques. There is little biological or ecological information that proves the effectiveness of harassment activities on vulture roosting and foraging behavior or the long term effectiveness of such dispersal activities. Relocation is an alternative management approach which places the vultures some distance away where their subsequent behavior is not expected to conflict with human activity. Two turkey vultures were trapped from roosting populations in central Florida, marked with patagial tags, and fitted with 100-g satellite transmitters that included a VHF transmitter. Each vulture was transported and released in a remote forested area of north Florida. The birds were tracked for several days following release using radio telemetry and subsequently monitored weekly by satellite. Locations and altitudes of the vultures are being used to develop a larger scale relocation research project for reducing damage caused by urban roosting vultures and to reduce risk of bird air strike hazards.


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