U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Proceedings of the 10th Damage Management Conference. (K.A. Fagerstone, W.T. Witmer, Eds). 2003.


Since the early 1990's, an increase in damage associated with the activities of black (Coragyps atratus) and turkey (Cathartes aura) vultures has been observed. These activities include extensive damage to real and personal property. Vultures display an affinity for objects made of synthetic materials such as vinyl or plastic, and frequently damage items such as seat cushions, roof shingles, and caulking sealant. To explore whether this behavior in vultures is olfactorily driven, volatile compounds emitted by 21 vulture-damaged objects were collected and analyzed using purge-and-trap gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Results from these analyses were tabulated and the 27 most commonly occurring compounds were identified. Six of the vulture-damaged samples contained at least 23 of the 27 identified compounds, and hexanal, octanal, undecane, and nonanal were found in all 21 vulture-damaged samples. Using these data, a water-based emulsion containing the 27 most frequently observed compounds in the vulture-damaged samples was formulated to serve as a synthetic materials mimic (SMM). A sustained volatile release delivery system utilizing cellulose sponges was also developed, and used to deliver the SMM for bioassay trials examining the response of captive vultures to the SMM.