The black vulture, the gray-headed cousin of the turkey vulture, is causing damage to vehicles–often trucks and SUVs–parked at boat ramps at some Indiana State Parks. Windshield wipers, sunroof seals, and rubber or vinyl parts are at particular risk. Most often, perching black vultures do little or no damage. However, in some cases the destruction can be extensive. The vultures can tear out rubber seals, peck pieces out of truck bed liners, and scratch paint with their claws.
Why are they “attacking” vehicles?
The quick answer is that no one knows for sure. Black vultures are primarily scavengers that play an important role in our local ecosystem, cleaning up dead and decaying animal carcasses. Rubber and vinyl certainly aren’t a part of their natural diet, and they only rarely eat any of it. Typically, the material is simply discarded after it’s ripped from the vehicle.
Some have theorized that the smell of a certain chemical in the rubber might attract the birds. However, studies have not supported this, and it seems unlikely given that black vultures have a terrible sense of smell.
Others have suggested that the behavior is social. Perhaps the birds are simply filling time with their “committee” (a term used to describe a group of perched vultures), much like humans sometimes engage in what may seem like meaningless activities while hanging out together in a group. Another possibility is that it could be connected to a ritualistic feeding behavior engaged in by young black vultures. The reasons why black vultures choose to attack one vehicle over another are similarly obscure.
Where is this problem occurring?
Black vultures are commonly found in southern Indiana and have caused problems at areas like Monroe Lake and Brookville Lake.
Is there a solution?
A variety of tactics have been tried to discourage black vulture attacks on vehicles. The most common tactic is to discourage black vulture committees from congregating at key locations.
Thus far, problems have been concentrated at boat ramp parking lots. Staff members have removed snags (dead trees) to make areas less attractive for perching and have used “harassment” techniques, including firecrackers, laser lights and pyrotechnics to chase away the birds. While “harassment” can be effective over short periods, it isn’t a good long-term solution. It is time-consuming for staff and can create an unpleasant environment for visitors.
Lethal solutions to the problem have been considered. However, black vultures are occupying their natural habitat and are playing an important part in that ecosystem (when they aren’t attacking vehicles!). They are also a protected species under the Migratory Bird Act, which severely limits control by lethal means.
How can your protect your vehicle?
If you have a cover for your vehicle, use it. You can also rig an improvised cover using tarps and bungee cords, taking particular care to cover exposed rubber and vinyl parts. If your vehicle sustains damage from black vulture activity, your recourse is to file a claim with your insurance company. You are also encouraged to report incidents to the property office to help the property more accurately track and assess the problem.
This article was taken off of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website verbatim, so I was already aware of it. Just so happens, I close on a house in Dunlapsville, Indiana, just off of Brookville Lake later this week. There are, I would guess, 200 black vultures who roost a couple hundred feet from my soon to be backyard year round. I’ve seen them in my backyard. So yes, I was concerned about the safety of my RV and truck being parked there. Have been talking to the neighbors in the area. None have had any problems with the vultures yet. I’m hoping that’s the case. May have to buy a cover for the RV if the vultures start becoming a problem.
Reminds me of what happens in Tahoe National Forest, where I work in the summers. The ravens love finding black trash bags and picking them apart.
I’ve seen them do it at Myakka State Park in Florida and Conowingo Dam in Maryland, too
This problem has existed for years at many of the parking lots in the Everglades National Park in Southern Florida. They chewed the rubber seals around my tonneau cover back in 2011.
I have seen crows and tom turkeys attacking their reflections in cars. I don’t think it’s as complicated as one of the theorists noted.
Iowa or Indiana?
Thanks, Ron. It’s Indiana, and it’s been corrected. Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
And here I thought the vultures only hung out around the rv dealerships…
I’ll stay away from boatramps. Thank you!
You list 2 different states as having this issue. Is it Iowa or Indiana? I know we have turkey vultures here in Iowa but have not heard of this problem.
Sorry, Rick. It is Indiana. It’s been corrected. Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
I can just hear my insurance adjuster now, “your truck was attacked by vultures, righttttttt.” 🤣🤣
Yea good luck with that particularly if you have progressive