Woman Eaten by Vultures Stirs Protected Species Debate

    May 6, 2013
    Sean Patterson
    Comments are off for this post.

A woman hiking in the Pyrenees mountains in France who fell to her death is igniting a debate over a protected species of vulture.

According to an International Business Times report, a 52-year-old woman fell down a 300-meter cliff while walking with friends. Vultures immediately took to the body, reducing it to only clothes and bones in less than one hour.

The event has highlighted calls by some farmers in France to be able to kill the Griffon vulture, a protected species that has been turning to attacking livestock. Recent European Union laws have required dead animal carcasses, a staple of the vultures’ diets, to be burnt to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. According to the IBT report, this policy has “critically” lowered the food available for the vultures.

Farmers are now making compensation claims for livestock killed or carried off by the birds. Hunters have also complained of the vultures stealing their kills. The birds, which can grow to have 9-foot wingspans and live over 40 years in captivity, are also reportedly spreading out further into Europe in search of food.

(Image courtesy Ingrid Taylar/Wikimedia Commons)

  • Marisa

    Animals have to deal with humans infringing on their space. We can deal with a few vultures for gods sake. Leave them alone. Tibetans routinely dispose of their dead in this way. It’s no different than being buried and having the bugs and microbes eat away at your dead flesh. It’s not like the vultures killed her or anything….she was dead, as far as the vultures, and probably a LOT of other animals in the vicinity, were concerned, dinner.

  • TonyG

    Oh for crying out loud! How stupid and cowardly can people get?
    Let the vultures do what they do and leave them alone. Is it their fault some woman was clumsy enough to fall to her death? I’m pretty damn sure she didn’t care if the vultures had a good meal.

    • VanessaR

      You lose all credibility when you call a woman who died a horrific death “clumsy.” I wish you more Grace in life than you are willing to extend to a fellow human being who suffered, since you may have suffered much to get to such a depraved point of view.

      • Jason P.

        And you darling lose the sarcastic compassion contest when you imply suffering for someone’s opinion on risky behavior.

        If a person engages in rock climbing, and falls 1000 feet, something was unfortunately ‘clumsy’ about the trek. At 52, it was a risky adventure. She died tragically, but her life is now remembered more for this incident (globally) than all her deeds had before. Her family I hope have perspective; you obviously do not.

        Some of us do care for life – but we participate in risk everyday. What others think of my life and death is no matter. That I universally care for life, does not mean that individuals will not do stupid, clumsy, miscalculated things.

  • Giuseppe

    Meat is meat.

    • http://www.clovisngwa.com clovis ngwa

      Gissepe you are a useless human being,,if you can say such a thing about a fellow human being eaten up by birds,,i wish u were the one eating up by those same birds

      • Vannacorn

        Um, he’d already be dead when the vultures got to him. So who cares? He obviously doesn’t. Not like it’s a painful experience.



    • Keith

      I got one for you Princess, let the dead animals lie where they are and let nature do it’s job. Stinking politicans don’t know the first thing about nature. Stupid ass EU laws are infecting the USA. What goes over there works its way here. IDIOTS!

    • http://yahoo Wil Judd

      So, they want to wipe out a species of buzzards for being, well, buzzards? This is what buzzards do-eat the freshly dead! C’mon people, wake up!

      • darryn

        no they dont eat freshly dead the eat mostly roted bodys…

        • CALiiGeDDon

          Blame the politicians on that one…they are starving and eat whatever they can.

          • Montgomery Hellgates

            I´ve even seen people eat out of trashcans because they have no job and no food.

    • Sandra Bass

      They did say the birds left her bones, can’t the family say good bye to the bones? I’m just saying they were part of her along with the skin, she wasn’t there any longer anyway. Death and life are part of the journey. What do you think happens when people are cremated? At least the starving birds had food, they unlike her are still alive.

      • VanessaR

        Hoping you never have to contend with a loved one passing so brutally violently. And, wishing you a more peaceful handling of any loved one’s remains.

    • KT

      If she fell to her death, it is unlikely that her family would have wanted to see the body. Her skull was likely crushed and she probably had multiple compound fractures. Falling to your death doesn’t leave you with much likelihood for an open casket. Birds will be birds and eventually we’ll all be worm food. Plus most hikers hike because they love nature. I highly doubt that she would want her death to bring about the death of such an integral part of the trails she visited. I sure hope that when I die that my body doesn’t end up taking up space at cemetery. Let my plot be in the belly of a bird, a bear, or ash in the wind.

    • Ricky

      Oh Stfu, the birds where doing what they were born to do.

      • Partick

        The Birds were doing what God designed them to do. You are not God, you don’t get to over rule His design.

    • Jason P.

      Losing a mother to cancer, and having to cremate, was hard. And all of us will DIE, and some will not be buried, or taken care of. In fact, Europe has MILLIONS upon millions that were sorted out in the underground catacombs tunnels, BONES everywhere, all mixed. I’ve seen it.

      So while it is nice to say goodbye, what you think a bird, or lion, or croc will exhibit mercy for a dead body/ritual? Or a hurricane? Christ – its terrible – but saying goodbye is not about you. Its about the deceased, who probably would tell you from beyond, that this is of no consequence. Be happy they are in a better place.

      I wish the departed got a last phone call to the hear and now. Maybe we’d learn what to fix personally or globally. Leave these creatures be.

  • Alan

    Yes, she was dead but a proper burial is very important for the family of the deceased. It’s one last chance to see her. I think that’s why some people are upset over what happened.

    • Keith

      Blame the EU laws which are obviously infringing on nature. How stupid can people be. What is next? A small child being taken?

  • Jack

    Lol, France, figures. If the Vultures were smart they’d just invade Paris, they’d surrender in a few minutes.

    • Keith

      Hopefully they will feed on the muslim rats. It would be a never ending feast!


    Why is it that when animals behave in their natural ways, humans get all upset if that behavior involves a human. Vultures, bears, lions, wolves,…etc., are looking for food. It is too bad this woman had to fall to her death, but don’t blame the vultures. Nature at times can be a cruel teacher.

    • Amy

      I have been asking that question for years. God forbid humans would leave animals alone to do what they do. Humans are the reason animals are “out-of-control” so to speak you people invade their territory building new buildings knocking down their forest, where are these animals suppose to go, and that is why you get bear, and other “dangerous” animals roaming in the city, so many deer car accidents, and the list goes on..
      I feel horrible the woman died, but its not the vultures fault she died. He was only looking for food…My gosh do you humans have any respect for animals when they lose a loved one or two, NOOOOO! Humans can roll over part of a family of ducks or geese following their mom and keep on driving without flinching. Animals and humans are the same beings and we are here on this earth to share it, and don’t forget they were here FIRST!

    • bawa

      Well humans get all upset out of fear. Humans are ONLY at the top of the food chain if they have a weapon. Without a gun or other weapon a human up against a bear or lion or any large predator
      hasn’t got a prayer. Rightly so.

  • Mike

    If I die… I do not care what happens to my body. Vultures eat dead things. That’s what they do. By eating dead things, some of which are decaying, they prevent the spread of disease. They have adapted to resist things like botulism, anthrax, cholera, and salmonella… They play a vital role in the world. They rarely will attack a living creature as the article stated… And if it is still alive, it’s probably knocking at death’s door.

    • Keith

      Well said. Too bad those assholes who right the laws aren’t smart enough to figure that out.

      • Queef

        Too bad you cant figure out how to spell

        • Keith

          Pardon the typo(s)QUEEF!

  • Dick Von Hugenstein

    Eh. . . .she was dead . .. if she fell 300 feet down a cliff. . and it only took the birds an hour to eat her . . . it doesn’t sound like they would have been stopped anyways. Maybe this was the perfect crime?? Push the woman over the cliff and the birds eat the evience? HMmmmmm. . those pompous arrogant wimpy smell French . . they are funny!!THey should all bow down and kiss Uncle Sams balls . . if it wasn’t for him they would all be speaking German and eating sauerkraut!!!! HEIL!!!!

  • Lyndsey

    While this story is very sad and I am sure very upsetting to her family, hikers do fall and die and their bodies can’t be recovered, either due to the weather conditions and/or terrain and in rare, bizarre, cases when wildlife in the area carry off the body. Anyone who has worked mountain rescue/recovery can tell you, it doesn’t require a vulture. At least the family knows what happened to her and have some remains to bury. They can bury the bones and clothing in a closed casket and it will still be a “Proper Burial.” A fully intact body is not required for that to occur — closed casket funerals or cremations happen all the time due to fires, car accidents, attacks, war fatalities, disfiguring diseases, etc. Closure by being able to see a fully intact body and the chance to say goodbye is not guaranteed for anyone.

  • http://yahoo doubting tom 2

    I thought the article was going to be about lawyers.

    • Jason P.

      They circle too – just they pick you apart while alive and dead.
      Makes no difference. At least the vulture will wait because they don’t have the right tool. Lawyers have paper and stupid laws.

  • Keith

    The article says they are starting to migrate. They should make their way over the middle east if they can survive the arid climates. They should have easy meals anytime they want with the way those less than human (culture of death) animals kill each other over there.

  • http://www.stoneycompton.com Stoney Compton

    Think of it as recycling. She wasn’t wasted on worms or cremated. She’s out there flying around looking for other sure-footed folks.

  • http://yahoo tom

    stay home

  • Krystal

    I love how humans do nothing but invade other creatures territories, and then they whine when the creatures attack them. Humans are natures biggest pricks and we are the most overpopulated god damn parasites on the planet. We don’t have any natural predators, yet other creatures are hunted when they become “overpopulated.” And humans are fricken encouraged to breed, because only human life is beautiful and sacred I guess? The only natural predators we have are diseases, and we’re still over populated. When one creature is causing all this damage, nature will eventually fight back.

    • calvin allen

      Kinda sounds like Washington when congress is in session and they are discussing Social Security.

    • bawa

      “We don’t have any natural predators” Sure we do. Bacteria and virus’ will get us all in the end. Also lions tigers and bears etc ARE our natural predators. The ONLY reason we are currently at the top of the food chain is because we have weapons. If early mankind hadn’t invented the spear or arrowhead we would not be commenting here.

    • Amy

      You said it best, that is pretty much what I was trying to say in my post….I cannot get over how they have not figured it out yet, that humans are the peoples enemy here, leave nature alone?!?
      Now this poor vulture doing what vultures do may be responsible for those vultures being hunted? What will you be crying about after that fallout affects you!?
      ..People get an encyclopedia out and read up on Vultures, and you will find out, he/she did nothing wrong!

  • Dale Darrough

    These Vultures are not capable of differentiating between a dead human or a dead deer. They are natures garbage collectors, and clean up the carrion in the wild or on a road. The idiot French have effectively taken away their primary food source, and left these birds no choice but to find food where they can. Now, instead of getting rid of the stupid law they instituted, there is a call to start killing these magnificent birds. Why is it, that it doesn’t matter whether its France, Great Britain, or the United States, we continue to elect complete Butt Heads with no common sense, of sense of right from wrong who always wind up making ridiculous policies like this one? What a bunch of complete idiots!

  • Alida

    ♫ Food! Glorious Food! Meat picked off the dead ones!!! ♫

  • http://none TheRevisionist

    Killing Mother Nature’s natural cleaners isn’t the solution, how about being more careful while hiking. Farmers of all people should know (killing) is a last resort, come on guys the vultures are just doing their job.

  • haven

    If they don’t want to burn the cows so there is no spreading of “the mad cow disease “then perhaps they / farmers should stop feeding the cows which are by nature ( vegetarian) dead animas in a protein powder as a substitute . This is the reason for mad cow disease.

  • RW1066

    While I’m sure her family is upset, I see nothing wrong with vultures eating this woman. I would be happy to let vultures dispose of my dead body. It sounds like instead of burning dead livestock to prevent the spread of mad cow, they should leave them for the vultures. Why the hell not? But honestly, what’s the big deal that she was eaten by vultures? I’m sure it’s happened to many a hiking victim that fell in an area too dangerous to be rescued. To me, the tragedy here is that this poor woman fell to her death, not that her body was disposed of by nature (I mean, worms would have gotten her had she been buried – what’s better worms or vultures?).

    • Partick

      Oh no, it would be much more natural for al my blood to be drained out, my major organs removed, my body filled with artificial fluid and I be paintd up so people could pretend I am just sleeping.

      If you are gonig to do all this, why not just take me to a taxadermist and have me doing something exciting. Maybe wrestling a bear or riding a bull.

      • Jason P.

        Funny. And true.

  • SD

    I spend a lot of time hiking in the mountains. I do so with the full knowledge that the space belongs to the wild creatures that inhabit it, and that sometimes those creatures can be a tad cranky. In other words, it’s the WILD and sh*t can happen! It’s common sense…animals can’t be expected to stop being what they are because we want to go for a walk in their space. If a person can’t accept that nature is sometimes unpredictable and cruel, then STAY HOME.

  • rob

    Well, she was dead. I wouldn’t mind a sky burial, they do that in Tibet and Nepal. Chop you up and let the eagles and vultures have the body parts. I think folks get to carried away with trying to keep their bodies in tact after death.

  • Sally

    I’m not letting my husband read this! Next thing I know our hiking trip to France will be all planned out. Sounds like the perfect crime. Leave the poor birds alone as they are only acting on their natural instincts.

    • Montgomery Hellgates

      But sweetie, do you even realize how much I love you? I´ve bought the tickets!
      I love animals… I love this birds! the poor little birds.., lets go and feed them babykins! <3

  • Clyde

    I feel for the family of the woman for their loss, but it makes no sense to kill the vultures as a result of it. They didn’t go after a live body as the headline suggests.

  • k-lyon

    It’s not normal for vultures to eat something within moments of it dying.

    Also, the farmers and hunters do not want to kill the birds because of this ONE incident. The vultures are taking hunters’ kills before they can get to them and also taking live farm animals. How would all of you feel if your livelihood was being destroyed by birds? And think, a young child isn’t any bigger than a lamb or small goat. If the vultures are taking live animals what’s to stop them from killing a child? What if this woman hadn’t died in the fall but was injured and unable to fend off the vultures–if they are killing live animals, they would have started feeding on her BEFORE she was dead. Or is that just part of nature like decomposing bodies?

    Hunting the birds to extinction isn’t an answer but if they are “spreading” to other areas of Europe, it doesn’t sound like they are very endangered. At some point, they become like our coyotes or the wild boars in our Southern states. You know, the boars that are killing livestock, rooting up farms, endangering people (especially kids) and pets. They should rethink the law requiring burning all dead livestock and limit it to maybe just cattle or cattle that showed signs of illness (because they really don’t need vultures infected with ‘mad cow disease’).

    • JS Argyle

      I cannot speak for griffons in the field, but I can vouch that turkey vultures in the USA (different family, equivalent niche) WILL begin gathering and feeding within moments of something dying (in one instance I saw two vultures start in on a third who had been hit by a car while they were working on a dead fox.) Also, you state that as an article of fact, then go on to talk about vultures taking live animals–which is one of the many places where this article falls shy of the facts, in the interests of getting readership.

      When vultures do not begin on prey within moments of it dying, this is generally due to a large animal having a tough hide that’s hard for their relatively blunt, weak bills to penetrate; they often must wait for a better-armed scavenger (in the Pyrenees, a wolf or an eagle) to make the initial tear on a fresh carcass–otherwise they need to wait for it to “ripen.” I hate to be crude, but with our soft skin, not to mention whatever trauma was inflicted by such a fall, there would be no need to wait. (300 meters = roughly 900 feet. A human being does not survive that type of fall, vultures or no vultures.)

      A griffon vulture is incapable of carrying off a lamb or goat; even an eagle, whose feet and legs are much stronger and adapted for killing and hoisting prey, has a tough time hauling something that large. Look at a vulture’s feet sometime and you’ll see why–they’re designed much more like those of a turkey or chicken, strictly for perching and walking, not killing. I will buy that a vulture will attack a sick or dying lamb or goat. So will a crow–I’ve seen that happen–and so will some gulls. It’s a far step from a flock of vultures gathering around an expiring or wounded animal and getting impatient to swooping down on children. Something stinks here, and it isn’t carrion: it smells to me like livestock compensation fraud, or people spoiling for an excuse to shoot at ugly birds which popular folklore makes out to be giant flying monsters.

      Lastly–griffon vultures do not breed at anything like the rate feral hogs, or even coyotes, do. They raise only a couple of young at a time, and do not breed every year; they are also not mature enough to take mates of their own until at least four or five years old themselves. Do the math. “Spreading” is a poor choice of words for what’s actually happening–the vultures moving to new regions in search of food.

      If there were no griffon vultures in the area to have “abnormally” swooped down–which they’ve probably been doing with animals who’ve fallen off cliffs for millennia–be assured that other scavengers (ravens, crows or kites) would have. While I agree that seeing a friend’s remains devoured by birds is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone–yes, this IS a part of nature like decomposing bodies.

    • Jason P.

      Since they are endangered, and this is rare and unfortunate incident, why are you contorting this into a what-if issue?
      (Stick to the facts, lady died, vultures instinctually responded…not conjecture of a child – to create sympathy for a non-existing situation.)

      I bet you knew nothing about this vulture – as I didn’t – before you wikipediaed it. So, this is not a crisis. Farmers bitch about anything – to get subsidies usually – that they ‘perceive’ causes pain to their bottom line. Sadly, they cause problems too.

      The vulture serves a purpose, like many humans are suppose to. If there was an overpopulation issue, I’d be for reining such a problem in for a life cycle reason. (Food sources – ecosystem balance – but WE humans are the problem, contorting the system the animals want to use too.)

      Also, how much of this issue is tied to Mad Cow? How many cases are a direct result? People hopefully have actually substantiated the effects. So lets not make another dumb law, that an animal (human one) won’t read, follow, or use properly.

  • http://yahoo Adrian

    if you our food away what do you think we would do?? can u blame them

  • Vannacorn

    Those vulture griffons are beautiful. Just because a few of them ended up eating a dead human does not mean we should take them off of the endangered list. Why would that even be brought up? Oh yeah, so anyone would have the right to kill them. Do they really want one whole species going extinct because they were naturally doing what they were born to do? I do feel for the woman, but there isn’t anything anyone could have done. Her body was probably mangled and mutilated from such a sheer fall down a cliff. Accidents happen, it was a tragedy for that poor family, but why take it out on the vultures?

  • Deel

    They think she died instantly. I hope she did. This is really sad. A taste of human will prompt the vultures to go for more dead humans. Unfortunately they will also go for live humans and torture them while feasting on them for an hour. This could be you so I hope something can be done with these vultures until the road kill can help balance it out. Vultures are predators. I would recommend you watch the little ones, and your little dogs, too!

    • Joe

      Thats what shotguns are for!

  • Cindy

    Can’t she go hiking at the park man leave animals alone.

  • Jay

    Ok this was a tragic death but you can’t stop nature from behaving this way. What are these vultures to do, sit and wait… pacing back and forth till someone comes and grab her remains. This is nature people… You can’t stop that and you can’t try to justify her death by killing these creatures or taking revenge. Personally people need to stop blaming nature for every damn thing. I mean it was her choice and she knew the risk.
    It’s not like she wasn’t well aware.