Patrick says : "Turkey vultures are dying out because of a loss of habitat - they're a protected species." The first statement is almost certainly true for California - their open country habitat is gradually disappearing under human encroachment, although in global terms they are still rated "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List. As to the second statement, the Wikipedia article on the Turkey Vulture says "The turkey vulture species receives special legal protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States,... In the US it is illegal to take, kill, or possess turkey vultures, and violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.", citing "Birds Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act", US Fish & Wildlife Service, and "Migratory Bird Treaty Act", US Code Collection. Cornell Law School. The illegality of the killing of the birds is a significant plot point.