Israel arrests man over Golan Heights mass vulture poisoning

Poisoned vultures on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (10/05/19)Image copyrightISRAEL NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY
Image captionIsraeli officials say the deaths have devastated the vulture population

Police in Israel have arrested a man suspected of poisoning nearly half of the rare vulture population in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The suspect, in his 30s, was detained in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye, police said.

Eight out of 20 griffon vultures remaining in the area were found dead on Friday morning

The incident was a major blow to efforts to save the population, which has sharply declined in recent years.

In a statement shared on social media on Sunday (in Hebrew), police did not give further details about the suspect or his alleged motive but said the investigation into the incident was continuing.

Local media reports stated that the suspect was accused of spreading poison over the carcass of a cow to kill predators.

He was said to be unaware that vultures might consume it.

A fox and two jackals were also found dead, while two sick vultures were taken to a wildlife clinic for treatment, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) said.

Vets treating the sick vultures told Haaretz newspaper that there had been a “substantial improvement” in one of the birds, and that it may soon be released back into the wild.

Officials in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have been trying to increase the vulture count there amid a dramatic decline in the population over the past 20 years.

Their numbers have reportedly dropped from 130 in 1998 to around 20 prior to the latest deaths.

Many have been poisoned, allegedly by local farmers whose herds are threatened by predators, Israeli news website Walla says.

The killing on Friday of so many birds was a “mortal blow” to the population, INPA Director Shaul Goldstein told AFP news agency.

Golan Heights map

INPA said it was even worse that the poisoning happened during nesting season, meaning eggs now might not hatch and chicks might not survive.

The authority said it would do everything possible to find out who was responsible and bring them to justice.

Most of the Syrian Golan Heights has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war. In March, the US became the first country to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the area since Israel effectively annexed it in 1981.

KEPCO HUNTERS CULL MILLIONS OF MAGPIES

이미지뷰
Magpie hunter Kim Jin-hwa takes aim at magpies perched on a utility pole with his air rifle Wednesday in Gongju, South Chungcheong. Since 2000, Korea’s largest utility company has been rewarding people for catching magpies, which are thought to be responsible for 20 to 30 power outages every year. [KIM SUNG-TAE]

GONGJU, South Chungcheong – On a quiet Wednesday morning in the city of Gongju, South Chungcheong, Kim Jin-hwa drove his SUV to a field near his house.

Taking an air rifle out of his car, Kim walked up to a utility pole where three magpies were roosting. After carefully taking aim, Kim pulled the trigger and one of the birds dropped to the ground.

By 11 a.m., Kim had over 50 dead magpies in his car.

Kim shot over 2,400 magpies in just two months this winter, culling the birds as they began building their nests.

He’s not hunting for sport, however. After every hunt, Kim takes the black-and-white birds to the Gongju office of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), where he receives 6,000 won ($5.30) for each magpie shot.

“I’ve made 10 million won every winter for about 15 years by hunting magpie,” said Kim. For the rest of the year, Kim is a small business owner.

Kepco, Korea’s main utility company, began rewarding magpie hunters in 2000 in an attempt to tackle bird-related power outages. Kepco asks hunting associations to recommend expert huntsman, who are then granted appropriate gun licenses and access to firearms stored at police stations to shoot and kill the birds.

Although they have traditionally been a symbol of good luck in Korea, Kepco and domestic bird experts singled out magpies as the species of bird most responsible for electrical outages.

Magpies like to build their nests on treetops to avoid snakes and other predators, but overpopulation has pushed growing numbers to make their home on top of utility poles.

The problem is that their nesting materials, which can include things like fragments of metal wire, can short electric circuits and cause power failures.

“If there’s a short circuit it’ll activate a protective device and cause a power failure,” said an official from Kepco’s Gongju office. “Electrical accidents can result in huge damages even in a short time period.”

Magpies can be very hard to catch, however, as they are one of the most intelligent bird species.

“Magpies have the intelligence of a four or five-year old child,” said Cho Sam-rae, a bird expert and honorary professor of biology at Kongju National University. “They remember the outfits of people who have tried to harm them and try to avoid them later on.”

Kim agreed that catching magpie is a tricky business.

“It’s not easy to catch the birds because they can identify the people that carry guns from their behavior,” Kim explained.

Hunting accidents do occur as well. In October 2017, a hunter in Incheon, Gyeonggi misfired and shot the window of a bus. No one was injured.

Despite Kepco’s best efforts to control the magpie population, some experts are skeptical of the effectiveness of the solution.

While the number of magpie hunters has grown in the past few years, bird-related power outages have not declined at a corresponding speed.

There were 510 magpie hunters in 2017, significantly more than the 338 in 2014, but the number of bird-related outages since 2013 has remained unchanged at around 20 to 30 accidents every year.

Last July, Liberty Korea Party Rep. Kim Jung-hoon revealed Kepco had spent 8.795 billion won rewarding hunters for catching 2.151 million birds between 2008 and 2017 based on data he acquired from the company. Kim called for alternative solutions to the outage issue, suggesting stronger power lines and drone monitoring.

Animal rights activists have also argued killing birds does not solve the fundamental problem and that utility officials should find ways for people and wildlife to coexist.

For now, Kepco believes the hunt must go on.

“If we stop hunting magpies for just a year, they’ll overpopulate and electrical accidents will increase as well,” explained an official from the company. “We have no option but to have people hunt.”

BY KIM BANG-HYUN, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

Bob Katter’s $2m plan for children to use rifles to hunt cane toads

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Katter’s plan to reduce cane toad numbers

Queensland MP Bob Katter wants children to become cane toad bounty hunters, armed with low-powered air rifles in the hunt for pocket money.

Under Mr Katter’s $2 million plan, young people would collect 40 cents for every toad they kill in a bid to save the environment from the introduced pest.

“It’ll give a bit of fun for our kids and a bit of pocket money for them as well,” the crossbench MP told reporters in Townsville on Thursday.

Bob Katter cane toad hunting children planUnder a $2 million plan, Queensland MP Bob Katter wants children armed with low-powered air rifles to hunt cane toads in a bid to save the environment. (9NEWS)

Asked whether it was appropriate for children to be using air rifles, Mr Katter stressed the weapons would be low power before breaking out in laughter.

“Some of my friends have tried to hurt people but that’s not going to happen – they’re pretty harmless,” he said.

He believes his solution will teach young people the value of earning money by improving the environment.

Asked whether it was appropriate for children to be wielding potential weapons, Mr Katter claimed the rifles are 'pretty harmless'.Asked whether it was appropriate for children to be wielding potential weapons, Mr Katter claimed the rifles are ‘pretty harmless’. (Getty Images)

“Up close it’s just squeeze the trigger – end of story,” Mr Katter said.

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“That’s simple instead of running around with golf clubs and spades, plastic bags and suffocating and pouring stuff on them – it’s just not working.”

Mr Katter has significantly upped the ante on Pauline Hanson’s call for a 10c toad bounty, a day after the One Nation leader revealed her three-month plan to punish pests.

Mr Katter's calls come days after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson called for a 10c cane toad bounty, also urging children to help reduce the numbers of the pest.Mr Katter’s calls come days after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson called for a 10c cane toad bounty, also urging children to help reduce the numbers of the pest. (9NEWS)

“All those people out there, ‘Work for the Dole’ doing absolutely nothing, or even kids on holidays, put down the iPads, get out there, collect the cane toads, take them to your local council, put them in the freezer, get rid of them and clean up our environment,” she told the TODAY Show this week.

But the Queensland politicians’ competing cash-for-cane-toad schemes could struggle to get off the ground with state and federal governments unlikely to hop on board.

Experts have also expressed their doubts over the plans. Professor Rob Capon from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience told 9News a bounty on toads was simply “not practical”.

Cane toads have had huge impacts on native animals, particularly in Queensland, after being introduced from Hawaii in 1935 in a failed bid to eradicate beetles.Cane toads have had huge impacts on native animals, particularly in Queensland, after being introduced from Hawaii in 1935 in a failed bid to eradicate beetles. (ACT Parks and Conservation Service)

“From an ecological point of view it’s unlikely to have an impact on the cane toad population. On a practical level there are all manner of problems,” he said.

Cane toads have had a huge impact on native animals since being introduced from Hawaii in 1935 in a failed bid to eradicate beetles infesting sugar cane and spreading across most of northern Australia.

WILDLIFE OFFICIALS WANT TO MOVE SOME MOUNTAIN GOATS FROM OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — AND KILL THE REST

 

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The National Park Sevice and other agencies want to remove as many goats as possible from Olympic National Park and relocate them to the North Cascades. Under the plan, the remaining animals would be shot to eradicate them from the park.

SADDLE RIVER CONSIDERS PLANS TO CULL DEER POPULATION

http://bronx.news12.com/story/38658997/saddle-river-considers-plans-to-cull-deer-population

Posted: Jul 16, 2018 7:20 PM PDTUpdated: Jul 17, 2018 2:15 AM PDT

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SADDLE RIVER –Saddle River officials are considering some plans to cull the town’s deer population.

Local lawmakers were supposed to vote Monday night on whether to reduce the population by killing the animals, but that vote was postponed.

The ordinance that lawmakers were considering would have allowed the United Bow Hunters of New Jersey to kill deer over the next two years.

Supporters of the plan say that the deer are eating plants in the town and bring about the threat of Lyme disease. They also say that reducing the deer population will also help reduce car accidents.

But other said that the ordinance was too vague. It did not indicated how many deer were to be killed or if neighbors are to be notified of the hunt.

There was also a question as to if $5 million in liability insurance was enough if there was an accident during the hunt.

Other opponents say that killing the animals, especially by bow hunting, is cruel.

It is believed that 200 to 400 deer roam around Saddle River.

The Saddle Brook Borough Council will now rewrite the resolution and vote on it at a later date.

Russia plans to kill a quarter million Siberian reindeer amid anthrax fears

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/10/01/russia-plans-to-kill-a-quarter-million-siberian-reindeer-amid-anthrax-fears/

October 1 at 1:15 PM

You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid…?

They may all be dead soon.

Faced with a public health crisis straight from a dystopian horror movie, officials in a remote region of Siberia have proposed killing off 250,000 reindeer by Christmas to minimize the possible spread of deadly anthrax bacteria, according to the Siberian Times.

The alarm started in July, when an outbreak of the bacteria killed a 12-year-old nomadic boy and sickened nearly 100 nomadic people in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, a vast northwestern region of the Siberian tundra. More than 2,300 reindeer also died.

The region’s governor, Dmitry Kobylkin, declared a state of emergency but also tried to reassure the Nenets, the nomadic indigenous people of the region, who roam with the herds of reindeer and depend on them for their existence.

“There is no epidemic in Yamal,” Kobylkin told the Associated Press then. “Only a small area was quarantined.”

The Yamal Peninsula, where the outbreak occurred, was immediately closed off and the carcasses of the dead animals burned. Kobylkin said all the reindeer on the peninsula — some 300,000 — were vaccinated, the AP reported.

Hundreds of nomadic reindeer herders were evacuated to Salekhard, the region’s capital, and the government set aside about $1.3 million to help them build a new settlement, according to the AP.

Still, the outbreak has prompted officials to propose killing 250,000 reindeer by Christmas, a far greater number that would be reduced anyway in an annual “cull” of the animals that takes place each November and December, the Siberian Times reported.

[A lightning strike killed 323 reindeer, and this is the ghastly aftermath]

A Russian federal veterinary official has said the reindeer population in Yamal was already “too high,” and thus, unsustainable.

“The more dense the animal population is, the worse the disease transfer medium (and) the more often animals get sick,” said Nikolai Vlasov, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service, according to the Siberian Times. “Density of livestock, especially in the tundra areas that are very fragile, should be regulated…. Otherwise, they will kill the pastures and later will destroy the indigenous minorities of the north who will have nothing to live on. It is impossible to breed reindeer without limits.”
An estimated 730,000 reindeer live in the Yamalo-Nenets region, the largest herd in the world, according to the paper.

Further complicating the matter, officials believe the mysterious outbreak may have started because a heat wave this summer thawed a decades-old corpse of a reindeer that was infected with anthrax, re-releasing the bacteria into the air.

This summer, temperatures in Yamal reached record highs of 90-degrees Fahrenheit and above, an unusual occurrence for what is typically a bitterly cold tundra. (Yamal means “end of the land” in the Nenets language.)

[Scientists are floored by what’s happening in the Arctic right now]

As the warmer temperatures caused a layer of permafrost to melt, the infected reindeer carcass was exposed to the surface — and, with it, spores of reanimated anthrax bacteria that grazing reindeer quickly picked up.

As The Post’s Ben Guarino reported in July:

Zombie bacteria that awaken from old corpses might sound like the stuff of an “X-Files” episode. The premise is far from a complete fiction, however.

For one, anthrax bacteria are hardy microbe. As University of Missouri bacteriologist George Stewart told the Missourian in 2014, the organisms turn into spores in the cold. They play the long game, waiting in the soil for the temperatures to rise. Once it hits a certain threshold, they morph back into a more mobile, infectious state.

“The soil in the Yamal Peninisula is like a giant freezer,” Jean-Michel Claverie, a biologist with the National Center for Scientific Research in France, told NPR in August. “Those are very, very good conditions for bacteria to remain alive for a very long time.”

In addition to culling a quarter-million reindeer this year, officials have also proposed that the animals be moved south and fenced in to allow northern pastures to recover from overgrazing, the Guardian reported.

Both proposals have drawn criticism from those who say they would be detrimental to the way of life for some of the nomadic herders.

“A huge number of nomads on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas will lose their means of existence and opportunities to maintain their traditional way of life,” Olga Murashko, an anthropologist, told the paper.

Bruce C. Forbes, a professor at the Arctic Centre in the University of Lapland, said that dramatically culling the reindeer in Yamal or to move to a fenced-in reindeer population “would be to simply replace one set of problems with another,” citing overgrazing issues even in the Finnish system of managing the reindeer population.

More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/10/01/russia-plans-to-kill-a-quarter-million-siberian-reindeer-amid-anthrax-fears/

Colorado Parks & Wildlife is hitting a new level of absurdity.

cougar pc Colorado Parks and Wildlife

From Wild Earth Guardians
The State has a new plot to kill cougars and bears in an attempt to boost mule deer populations so that it can sell more hunting tags. Yup, that’s right, they want to kill native animals so that more people will pay to kill other animals. Join us in telling our state’s wildlife managers it is past time to put wildlife first.

Poorly disguised as two “predator control studies” aimed at increasing sport-hunting opportunity for mule deer over the coming years, the state is putting bears and cougars in the crosshairs. The first plan calls for trapping and killing between 15-45 cougars and 30-75 black bears over a period of three years. The “study” part is a post-killing analysis of the impact of removing native predators on mule deer fawn survival rates. The science shows that removing native carnivores from the landscape undermines ecosystem functions. Adding insult to injury, the state plans to have the federal government’s rogue wildlife killing program—Wildlife Services—do the dirty work by setting cruel and indiscriminate traps and using hounds to capture the bears and cougars before shooting them dead. So, both your state and federal public resources would be used for the killing.

And, as if one so-called “research” project wasn’t good enough, another is set to begin this year. This second cruel project allows for dramatically increased trophy hunting of mountain lions over a nine-year “study” period. Fully six years of the study involve increasing cougar harvests by 50% to purposefully suppress the population. The “study’s” goal is to analyze the impact of using sport-hunting to control the wildcat population and increase deer density. Again, state sponsored killing of one native species purportedly to benefit hunters trying to kill another.

Killing Colorado’s native carnivores to benefit sport-hunters is just plain wrong. It’s also biologically unsound. Please join us in speaking out for Colorado’s wildlife and thriving natural ecosystems. Help us talk some sense into our state’s leading wildlife managers.

The State is hosting a public listening session on September 19th from 6:30 to 8:30p at the Hunter Education Building in Denver (6060 Broadway). Join Guardians in showing your support for Colorado’s native carnivores by attending and sharing your thoughts on the State’s proposed “research” plans.

Coloradans are proud of the healthy, wild ecosystems that make the state unique. Don’t let bloodthirsty minority interests destroy the balance for us all. Tell Colorado Parks & Wildlife native carnivores belong in Colorado.

Stop the Slaughter of the Profanity Peak Wolves!

Tell Governor Inslee — Stop the Slaughter of the Profanity Peak Wolves!

20,381 SUPPORTERS
25,000 GOAL
In early August, two members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack were brutally gunned down by helicopter sharpshooters in northeast Washington. The fallen included the pack’s matriarch, whose death could destroy this wolf family.

The wolves were killed by the state on behalf of livestock operators who run their cattle on public land in wolf territory. The killings occurred after the pack was confirmed to have preyed on three calves and a cow and three other stock losses were deemed probable wolf kills.

There is strong science showing that killing a breeding animal like the Profanity Pack’s matriarch may lead to a splintering of the pack and cause increased conflicts with livestock.

The Profanity Pack wolves were killed to satisfy the demands of a politically connected minority of cattle interests that want to operate America’s public lands like a publicly subsidized feedlot.

Authorities have finally suspended their hunt but say they will reinitiate efforts to kill wolves if more livestock conflicts occur. Take action — tell Washington Governor Jay Inslee to prevent the slaughter of any more members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack by ordering non-lethal measures if further conflicts arise.

ZAMBIA’S ON-OFF HIPPO CULL ON AGAIN!

http://www.bornfree.org.uk/animals/hippos/zambia-hippo-cull/

Update July 4th 2016

Born Free calls for independent Presidential inquiry and a permanent halt to the killing.

Two thousand of Africa’s increasingly rare hippo, living in the wildlife haven of Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, face the renewed threat of terror and death, following a meeting held in Lusaka on Wednesday 22nd June.

Will Travers OBE, President and CEO of Born Free Foundation, stated: “Leaving aside the moral and ethical arguments and Born Free’s consistent opposition to culling, we are asking for urgent clarification on a number of key issues and the publication of all scientific evidence that might support such drastic measures.”

International and Zambian opposition to the cull has been widely reported in the media.

A temporary suspension of the cull, announced on 14th June, was, according to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), to allow for “extensive consultation”. However, following the brief meeting in Lusaka on Wednesday 22nd June it now appears the hiatus is over and the cull is set to resume.

This “invitation only” meeting was called by Stephen Mwansa, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism & Arts, and Paul Zyambo, Director of DNPW. The company contracted by DNPW to carry out the cull, Mabwe Adventures, was in attendance, along with only one local stakeholder, the Luangwa Safari Association – representing safari camps and lodges in South Luangwa National Park.

Information from Zambia indicates that DNPW is now poised to push ahead with the cull of 2,000 hippos over five years using paying trophy hunters, as was recently promoted on Theo De Marillac Safaris’ website.

Why this decision has been taken, and on what basis, remains shrouded in secrecy. In light of this, Born Free Foundation wrote to the President of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, on 27th June, requesting the cull be abandoned and that key information pertaining to DNPW’s justifications for the cull to be made publically available. To date, no response has been forthcoming.
Born Free Foundation, together with other wildlife conservation and animal protection organisations, believe that five critical issues still need to be addressed:

  1. DNPW has, to date, failed to provide robust, scientific evidence demonstrating that there is an overpopulation of hippos in the Luangwa River, or to make public the Government of the Republic of Zambia report that they have cited in their justification
  2. DNPW has failed to provide robust, scientific evidence clearly demonstrating that previous hippo culls in the Luangwa Valley have been successful in reducing the population over the long-term and that the culling methodology that has been proposed – targeting whole pods of hippos in the water – is humane
  3. DNPW has failed to provide rainfall and river level data showing that river levels and water flow in the Luangwa River are abnormally low and cannot sustain the current hippo population
  4. DNPW has failed to provide credible, scientific evidence to show that such an indiscriminate hippo cull would prevent a future outbreak of anthrax – not prevent the spread of an existing outbreak – as there isn’t one
  5. DNPW has failed to provide categorical evidence that an approved and transparent tendering process took place in awarding the culling contract to Mabwe Adventures, of which an ex-Zambia Wildlife Authority employee, Flavian Mupemo, is a shareholder and beneficiary.

Given the highly contentious nature of culling; the unanswered questions raised above; the possible conflict of interest; and the concerns about the lack of transparency of the tendering process, Born Free Foundation is calling for the planned cull to be abandoned and for the matter to be investigated at the highest possible level by an independent inquiry, established under the auspices of The Office of The President.

Travers added: “The longer these vitally important issues go unanswered, the more the authorities come up with different and, as yet, unsubstantiated justifications for the cull, the more Zambia – one of Africa’s great wildlife strongholds – will suffer lasting reputational and potentially economic damage. The independent inquiry, called for by Born Free, seems to me the only way to establish the truth and determine whether any of the claimed justifications for the cull – a measure which could see 2,000 wild hippo lose their lives – can withstand the scrutiny they deserve.”

What You Can Do

Please contact Zambia’s President and Minister of Tourism politely calling for this ‘temporary’ halt to be permananet.

Please write to:

His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu
President of Zambia
State House
PO Box 30135
Lusaka
Zambia

Email: lunguedgar@gmail.com

Stephen Mwansa

Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Tourism & Arts

National Assembly of Zambia

Parliament Buildings

Parliament Road

PO Box 30575.

Lusaka

Zambia

smwansa@mota.gov.zm

 
Start both letters ‘Your Excellency’ and sign off both ‘Yours respectfully and sincerely’.

Thank you.

Or see our latest emergency activate campaign

Luangwa River

Killing of Cormorant Over…For Now

Painting Courtesy Barry Kent McKay

Painting Courtesy Barry Kent McKay

http://www.chinookobserver.com/co/local-news/20151109/cormorant-killing-comes-to-seasonal-end-litigation-set-for-march

CHINOOK — The federal government last month stopped shooting cormorants and oiling their nests to reduce cormorant predation on juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River estuary.

Wildlife Services, a federal agency contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, killed 2,346 double-crested cormorants and destroyed more than 5,000 nests on East Sand Island between May 28 and Oct. 1. The island is located in Baker Bay near Chinook and the gunfire could sometime be heard echoing around the bay.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the Corps a one-year permit in April 2015 to kill 3,489 double-crested cormorants and to oil 5,879 nests through the end of January 2016. The permit also includes destroying 105 Brandt’s cormorants and 10 pelagic cormorants.

This year’s culling activities end once most of the birds begin to migrate south for warmer climates, which is usually by the end of October.

 

Salmon impacts

 

NOAA Fisheries estimated that during 1998-2012, double-crested cormorants consumed 6.7 percent of juvenile steelhead, 2.8 percent of Chinook yearlings and 1.3 percent of juvenile sockeye migrating to the ocean.

Looking at it another way, NOAA also calculated the birds ate an annual average of 12 million juvenile salmonids, many of them listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The East Sand Island’s cormorant colony, estimated at 15,000 nesting pairs, represents about 98 percent of the double-crested cormorant population in the lower Columbia River. In 1989 the cormorant breeding population was about 100 pairs.

As tons of dredged rock and soil from the Columbia River streambed piled up over the years, avian predators, such as cormorants and Caspian terns, set up colonies on the fill.

The Corps has a four-year plan to reduce the cormorant population in the estuary by 56 percent. The plan is spelled out in the final environmental impact statement, dated Feb. 6, 2015.

 

Lawsuit pursues end to bird cull

 

In response, the Audubon Society of Portland and four other groups filed for a preliminary injunction against the Corps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wildlife Services in April 2015. The environmental groups argued their suit was not about “birds versus fish.” Rather, they said, federal agencies were targeting cormorants rather than operating dams to minimize juvenile salmon mortalities.

NOAA Fisheries calculated annual cormorant consumption rates of juvenile steelhead, yearling Chinook and juvenile sockeye at 6.7 percent, 2.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, based on data from 1998-2012.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled against the Audubon and its allies May 8, citing their failure to prove that lethally removing the number of cormorants stated in the Corps’ plan would likely cause “irrevocable harm” to the overall population. The decision allowed the federal agencies to start their 2015 culling operation in late May.

Final oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 7, 2016, before Simon.

Meanwhile, on Goose Island upstream of the Columbia’s confluence with the Snake River, fewer than 20 nesting pairs of Caspian terns have been counted this year.

“Last year, before the dissuasion program, there were about 400 nesting pairs,” said Michael Lesky, natural resource specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Ephrata Field Office.

Caspian tern

This Caspian tern wears ankle bracelets, actually bands that indicate where the bird was tagged.

Tern populations have been big consumers of juvenile salmonids. Studies conducted during 2008-2013 estimated terns were annually taking 16 percent of upper Columbia River steelhead smolts and 2.5 percent of spring Chinook. BuRec and the Corps will release estimates next month of the number of juvenile salmon and steelhead taken by Caspian terns in 2015.

Relocation efforts

As part of the dissuasion plan, federal agencies have created alternative Caspian tern nesting habitat at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in San Francisco Bay. The alternative habitat was available for the 2015 spring nesting season.

Lesky, who visited the refuge in May, said he saw the birds nesting, rearing their young and using the habitat there.

The purpose of the new California habitat is to attract Caspian terns away from the Columbia River to a location where there are fewer or no ESA-listed species for prey. The San Francisco Bay refuge is on the bird’s annual flyway.

It won’t be known if Caspian terns at the Don Edwards refuge are terns from Goose Island until agency personnel have information from satellite tags on the terns, which will come later this year, Lesky said. The terns nesting there could also be from East Sand Island on the lower Columbia, where efforts to reduce their numbers have met with limited success.

To redistribute Caspian terns, a method called social attraction is used to entice them away. This involves the Corps of Engineers building up islands at appropriate locations, and biologists then holding a big, loud party there. Instead of setting out chairs and tables and turning on music, they plant the new terrain with Caspian tern decoys and blast audio recordings of screeching terns.

Social attraction seems to work to lure a limited number of the terns to new areas, but it’s hard to predict whether this widely dispersed and migratory species will continue to return to a new island or breed there, and whether relocation helps reduce Caspian tern consumption of juvenile salmon and steelhead on the Columbia.