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Acquire a bit of ‘Vulture Culture’ at Blanco State Park

Turkey vultures are commonly seen devouring dead animals along roads and other places in the Highland Lakes. Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BLANCO — When Kate Boysen drives to her job as a park interpreter at Blanco State Park, she marvels at the work of nature’s clean-up crew.

“The Hill Country would look quite a bit different without them,” Boysen remarked. “They do a tremendous job, but one I don’t think we really understand or appreciate.”

The clean-up crews to which Boysen is referring are the vultures found alongside roads — and other places — scavenging animal remains. While not something we typically stop to admire, vultures play a critical role in nature.

“Can you imagine what the Hill Country would look like without vultures doing their job?” she asked. “It would be much different.”

Boysen hopes people come to appreciate vultures — especially the turkey and red-headed varieties found in the Highland Lakes. On Jan. 17, she’s hosting a program appropriately named “Vulture Culture” at Blanco State Park from 10-11 a.m. During the program, Boysen will share some of the wonders of vultures with people.

“It’s definitely underappreciated as a bird and species,” she said.

While nature has other ways of “consuming” dead animals, vultures are among the most efficient. Vultures, by their size and congregative nature, can quickly rid highways and byways of animals killed by vehicles as well as clean up deceased critters in other places.

One of the vulture’s best benefits for humans comes after the death of a rabid or diseased animal.

“If any animal has a disease such as rabies and dies, if a vulture eats it, the rabies isn’t passed along,” Boysen explained. “This is because of their digestive tract. Vultures can break down those diseases in their digestive process. That’s just one of the incredible things about these birds.”

During the program, Boysen will start out with a little educational discussion on vultures before leading people on a hike down one of the park’s new trails in hopes of spying a few of the birds lurking about.

The program is free, but regular park admission applies. The park is located at 101 Park Road 23 in Blanco. Go to tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/blanco or call (830) 833-4333 for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com