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Vultures Devour Woman Within Minutes of Her Death

Update Date: May 07, 2013 02:53 PM EDT

Vultures are scavenging birds that eat dead carcasses usually after other animals in the wild have already finished. Although vultures often eat dead wild animals, it does not mean that dead human bodies are completely off the table. According to France's TF1 news, vultures devoured a woman's body within minutes after she fell off of a cliff and died. The vultures ate the woman's carcass within 45 minutes as emergency responders attempted to retrieve her body.

The 52-year-old woman was hiking in the French Pyrenees along with two friends. The woman, who remains anonymous, apparently fell off of a cliff and died immediately upon contact. The fall was 980 feet and the woman had no chance of survival. The rescue workers responded to the accident, but arrived to a scene taken from a horror movie. Vultures were hungrily eating up her body and were finished within 45 to 50 minutes.

"There were only bones, clothes and shoes left on the ground," Major Didier Pericou had described to the Times of London. "When we first went out into the helicopter looking for the body, we saw numerous vultures without realizing what they were doing. They took 45 to 50 minutes to eat the body."

The griffon vultures within this area of France are a protected species. Animal advocates and the Times of London have expressed concerns over whether or not this incidence will lead farmers to press harder for permission to shoot these birds. These farmers state that the increased population of these vultures threatens their domestic livestock. Even though vultures do not generally eat live animals, they have resorted to eating small live ones when there is no source of food.

According to a European law, dead farm animals must all be burned to protect other animals from deadly infections or diseases. Due to the fact that farmers are now required to burn dead animals, they are also taking away a huge source of food from the vultures. Without this source, vultures within the area have adapted to preying on live cattle.  

"You can't imagine what it is like to see an animal eaten alive," said farmer, Alain Larraide.

Not only are the farmers' accounts correct, a 2011 report found that griffon vultures have slowly been shifting from being scavengers to hunters in the areas of southern France and Spain. According to this report, which was published in Nature, there were 1,165 cases of vultures preying on livestock between 2006 and 2010. In the meantime, these birds are still rightly protected due to their low population numbers. Whether or not they start preying on larger animals will be something to observe for. 

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