I’m Tired of Playing Chicken with Vultures on Kentucky Highways; They’re Much Nicer in New Mexico
I enjoy my drive to work. It's not a long commute--about 10 minutes--but I live in the county, so I enjoy watching birds of prey roost on power lines looking to make breakfast out of some poor rodent. I would totally be there for a docu-series about animals in urban and suburban areas.
VULTURES OWN THE ROAD
I also wouldn't mind watching one about vultures, although not for the same reasons. I'm pretty tired of them, actually. What I'd like to know from such a show is if these big ugly birds can, in any way, be intimidated.
Way back in 1983, while we were vacationing out in New Mexico, visiting family, there came a time when I needed to drive from my aunt and uncle's house--they lived on a ranch called Ponderosa, which is so cool--down to a guest cabin where I was staying during our visit. Everything out west is so vast that it was no surprise that my sleeping quarters were half a mile away from the house and STILL on their property.
VULTURES ARE NOT EASILY INTIMIDATED, IF AT ALL
In the distance, I saw what I realized was a vulture feeding on carrion in the middle of the road. When I got about 50 feet away from this character, he took off and then flew back to his meal after I passed; I watched in the rearview mirror as he made an impressively hasty return.
In a different part of western New Mexico in 2015, almost the exact same thing happened again. And by the way, they do SERIOUS roadkill in the southern Rockies; on both occasions, these scavengers were dining on massive carcasses.
So now I understand; vultures are much more polite in New Mexico than they are in Kentucky, or so it seems.
On more than one occasion in recent weeks, I've encountered vultures on the road--here in Daviess County and in Muhlenberg County another time--that acted like tollbooth operators. "You're not getting past me without paying the fee." I literally had to slow down almost to a stop before they could be bothered to fly away. They seem rather pushy and in control around here.
About seven years ago, I was in Falls of Rough and actually had to drive AROUND one while it picked at a dead snake. It looked up as I passed as if to say, "Why are you here? Who are you? Security!"
Anyway, the vultures I've encountered here in Kentucky are all turkey vultures--a tip of the hat to AllAboutBirds.org for that I.D. And I'm guessing they're not exactly an issue; that they don't feel like moving out of the way when I approach them in my car isn't apparently a cause for concern.
The more problematic of the species is the black vulture which will, on rare occasions, go after livestock with a pulse, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The agency reports that they will actually hang out near birthing sites in order to consume afterbirth or stillborn calves, but that they will occasionally whisk a newborn away.
Truthfully, vultures have kind of fascinated me because of their ability to get away with eating flesh that's riddled with who knows how much bacteria. I did a little research and learned they have an enzyme in their digestive tract that prevents them from being poisoned.
Yes, they may be annoying and they may have an attitude--and they sure are UGLY--but they ARE interesting.