One time when we happened upon a vulture eating some road kill, I asked if vultures ate other vultures who have passed away, or does one say to the other: “Hey, that’s my uncle Merle. You can’t eat him!”

Evidently in the mind of a vulture, food is food, as the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife noted.

Numerous vultures are now falling victim to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). That fact was recently pointed out recently by Dr. Sara McReynolds, Kansas’ deputy animal health commissioner, and data on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website backs that up.

And in New Jersey, the vulture situation, and their apparent tendency to devour other birds that have fallen to HPAI is starting to affect recreation.

According to the New Jersey agency, more than 100 black vulture deaths have occurred since early August on and near the Sussex Branch Trail, a rail trail popular with hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders in Sussex County, New Jersey.

“This is a phenomenon that has been observed in many states along the East Coast. Black vultures are seemingly very susceptible to avian influenza, and they tend to scavenge the carcasses of dead vultures, which can prolong the duration of a local outbreak such as the one being seen in Sussex County,” the New Jersey agency said in a press release.

“The birds have been left to decompose on site due to rough terrain causing accessibility issues and a lack of personnel in the state certified to handle infected birds. Improper handling can lead to further spread of disease.”

And, according to a report from New Jersey 101.5, a portion of the trail was closed over the weekend because of the situation.

I know this must be frustrating to those who frequently use the trail, but please remain patient and use this as an opportunity to find other areas where you can enjoy nature.