Can wildlife survive the Wall?

Some timely info about the Border Wall’s impact on wildlife from

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Trump’s wall would seal off critical migration corridors and slice through essential habitat – fragmenting populations and isolating animals from each other and from resources that are critically important to their survival. In addition,

  • At least 89 endangered or threatened species and 108 migratory bird species will come under immediate threat from wall construction;
  • Recovery of two critically endangered species that regularly cross the border – jaguars and Mexican gray wolves – will be in serious jeopardy;
  • Migratory bird habitat will be destroyed and some species like the ferruginous pygmy owl – will be unable to fly across what could be 30-foot barriers; and
  • Pristine wildlife refuges and conservation lands, including the Lower Rio Grande and Buenos Aires national wildlife refuges and the Otay Mountain Wilderness, will be permanently marred as whole sections are destroyed and walled off forever.

On top of it all, the Trump administration could exempt the border wall’s construction from ever having to comply with environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act.

Building a massive, impenetrable barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border would wreak havoc on wildlife, critical habitat and communities. For many species, it would be the end of the road.


Animal overpasses on I-90 will grant safe passage to Washington wildlife

By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News Dig


From snow-covered mountains to northwest ocean waters, it’s no secret that Washington is passionate about protecting all the wildlife in between.

In an effort to keep animals out of harm’s way, the state has invested millions of dollars into creating animal overpasses that stretch over busy roadways. A bridge under construction, east of Snoqualmie Pass, will be the the first of its kind in Washington, but it’s just not for conservation.

>> Related: State breaks ground on new I-90 wildlife overpass

It’s about balancing human transportation needs with wildlife habitats, according to Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meagan Lott.

“You’re improving safety, you’re relieving congestion and you’re also looking at the environmental aspects,” she told The Spokesman-Review.

Conservation Northwest has led efforts to get an overpass to connect two important habitats in the Price Creek area near mile marker 62 in eastern Washington.

>> Related: DNA tests confirm gray wolf is roaming NW Washington

As explained in a series of interviews in a Conservation Northwest documentary, animal crossings over I-90 — where 27,000 cars drive daily —  is a serious safety problem for wildlife and drivers.

Animal monitoring shows that it’s wildlife’s natural migration pattern to cross I-90 because of how they come down from the mountain. And their best solution is the 150-feet-wide, vegetated overpass because it gives animals the most natural path forward.

>> Related: New eastside residents could be attracting bears, biologist says

They decided to steer away from creating an underpass — much like a successful construction project near the Summit of Snoqualmie — because elk out don’t like traveling underground.

“If we’re blocking them from moving, we’re preventing them to find food, we’re blocking their ability to find places to live,”  Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest’s I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition coordinator, said in a YouTube video.

>> Related: King County calls wildlife crossing ‘very successful’

“An overpass is a bridge over the highway … with native trees and shrubs from the surrounding forest, so they walk over the interstate and never realize they’ve left the forest on either side.”

While the overpass — totaling $6.2 million — near Spokane is now visible to drivers, it won’t be completed until 2019. It’s one of the 20 animal crossings planned in a billion-dollar upgrade project between Hyak and Easton.

As some taxpayers find that price tag steep, transportation leaders and conservation activists say that reducing the hazards of collisions is worth it.

>> PHOTOS: Animals at wildlife crossing in Redmond

On a smaller scale, King County already has functioning animal crossing bridge over a roadway in Redmond.

KIRO 7 News spoke with Rick Brater, county road engineer for the King County Road Services Division, just a year after it opened  at Northeast Novelty Hill Road in 2015

“I think right now we can say it’s very successful,” Brater said. “We saw deer cross almost immediately as we opened it up.”

It usually takes about three to five years for animals to start using crossings. The area saw significantly fewer incidents with wildlife crossings just months into the city’s new bridge.

Animals are using Colorado’s wildlife crossings, reducing collisions, CDOT says

A herd of deer walk through a wildlife crossing in the snow.
Colorado Department of Transportation, supplied

A herd of deer walk through a wildlife crossing in the snow.

Wildlife bridges and underpasses led to a dramatic decline in animal-related car crashes, …

For full story, visit:


Migratory Bird Treaty Act under threat

1/18/2018 | 0

The declining Golden-winged Warbler is one of many species protected by the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo by By Jayne Gulbrand/Shutterstock

In 1916, the United States and Canada reached a landmark agreement to
protect migratory birds, many of which were being hunted to the brink for
fashion or food. The Migratory Bird Treaty became U.S. federal law in 1918
as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the nation’s earliest and most
influential pieces of environmental legislation. Passed in the nick of time,
the act saved herons, egrets, waterfowl, and other birds from going the
route of the Passenger Pigeon and other now-vanished species.

Now the act itself is under attack, facing proposed changes that would undo
the safeguards it provides for birds. The U.S. House of Representatives is
considering an amendment eliminating protection for migratory birds that
fall victim to oil spills, wind turbines, and other energy infrastructure.
The language is part of a bill called the SECURE Act, HR 4239. In addition,
the Department of the Interior has drafted a new legal interpretation of the
law, changing a long-standing policy that the act covers these deaths.

The act does not put too heavy a burden on industry. It encourages energy
companies to adopt best-management practices, like covering oil pits with
screens to keep birds from being trapped and killed. In practice,
enforcement of the act has only occurred when companies failed to adopt such
practices — and ignored government warnings.

In a remarkable show of support for keeping the act strong, a bipartisan
group of 17 high-ranking officials from previous administrations sent a
letter to the interior secretary opposing the change. The new interpretation
“needlessly undermines a history of great progress, undermines the
effectiveness of the migratory bird treaties, and diminishes U.S.
leadership,” they wrote.

Migratory birds have inherent value. They also drive economic growth.
Birders spend millions of dollars on wildlife-watching equipment, backyard
birding supplies, and birding tours. Birds also provide essential services
to people, from natural control of insect pests to crop pollination.

According to the 2016 State of the Birds Report, a third of North America’s
bird species are in decline. Now is the time to increase protections for
migratory birds, not undercut the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other
bedrock laws that sustain them.

Sign the American Bird Conservancy’s petition opposing changes to the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act

A version of this article will appear in the April 2018 issue of
BirdWatching magazine.

This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3),
not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and
their habitats throughout the Americas.

Wildfires leave Okanogan Co. wildlife hungry

I remember back (not long ago) when wildfires were just a natural events that left the forest refreshed and renewed. Now, human manipulation and ultimately, anthropogenic climate change, have made fires more and more catastrophic for all–including the wildlife.

Whitney Ward and 6:14 PM. PST February 16, 2016

OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash. – Okanogan residents said today a bear that died last week in their area likely woke up from hibernation too early from a lack of food before winter.

2 On Your Side found it the same problem is affecting animals across Central Washington. It was all thanks to two years of historic wildfires that caused massive amounts of land damage.

“A lot of animals were killed in the fire itself last summer,” Okanogan resident Jon Wyss said. “And many more died shortly after from burns and other injuries. But now, 6 months later, there is plenty of wildlife still suffering.”

The fires destroyed many of the habitats for the animals which meant no food and little shelter. Thousands of deer were left without food after trees and grass were burned.

“When you burn 250,000 acres in 2014 and 500,000 acres in 2015, there’s not a lot of forage,” Wyss said.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials told 2 On Your Side it could take up to a decade for all the foliage to regrow. That could lead to many animal populations to struggle for years and farmers could carry the burden.

“There’s 11,000 deer without food,” Wyss said. “They’re struggling and they’re competing against our agriculturalists, eating limbs off the trees, the buds, the hay.

2 On Your Side learned that with so many deer going on to farmland for food, it can bring predators like wolves and cougars closer to homes.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials also said the harder it is for deer means it’s easier for predators. But officials also said that nature will correct itself and the wildlife population will rebound eventually.

Wildlife Service Eyes Migratory Canada geese Next

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Avian flu detected at two more farms in B.C. as outbreak continues to spread

Birds at two more farms in southwestern British Columbia have tested positive for avian influenza, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Wednesday — underscoring the difficulty facing officials attempting to contain the virus.The outbreak began last week, when turkeys and chickens at two farms in the Fraser Valley tested positive for the H5N2 strain of the disease.

The virus has now been detected at eight locations on seven farms, leaving 155,000 birds either dead or set to be euthanized. The outbreak has prompted surveillance and control measures affecting half of the province, as well as a growing list of trade restrictions on B.C. or Canadian poultry.

Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Canada’s chief veterinary officer, said the new infections did not come as a surprise and he suggested more could turn up in the coming days. Indeed, another farm was also being investigated as suspicious, he said.

“The identification of additional farms is not unexpected, given that avian influenza is highly contagious,” Kochhar said during a conference call with reporters.

“Our efforts are directed to controlling the avian influenza virus from spreading. In spite of those measures, there is a possibility that this could show up at other farms. This is something that is attributed to the highly virulent, highly pathogenic nature of the avian influenza virus.”

The affected farms are clustered within several kilometres of each other in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

In each case, the farms were immediately placed under quarantine and plans were made to destroy any birds that had not already been killed by the virus.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced a control zone covering the southern half of B.C., where restrictions have been placed on the movement of poultry. Those restrictions are more strict in the area immediately around the affected farms.

It’s not yet clear what caused the outbreak, though two farms where the virus was detected had received chickens from a previously infected facility.

Officials are looking into the possibility that migrating wild birds introduced the virus into the region, though Kochhar said there’s nothing conclusive yet. He said there was no evidence the virus had been circulating among migrating birds and a wild bird monitoring program hadn’t found any unusual increases in animal deaths.

Avian influenza poses little danger to people as long as poultry meat is handled and cooked properly.

It can, however, put the poultry industry at risk.

Previous outbreaks in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada similarly led to the destruction of tens of thousands of birds. The most serious, a 2004 outbreak in the Fraser Valley, prompted federal officials to order the slaughter of about 17 million birds.

Since last week, eight countries have placed restrictions on poultry and poultry products. Singapore was added to that list on Wednesday, joining the United States, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Some of those restrictions, such as those put in place by Japan, apply to poultry from all of Canada.

Kochhar said he hoped to convince authorities in other countries to limit any trade restrictions to the region affected by the outbreak.

“We have sent our information to them in terms of our primary control zone, which is southern British Columbia, and have requested them to revisit their restrictions on poultry and poultry products from the rest of Canada,” he said.

Consumers are unlikely to notice the outbreak at the grocery store.

The marketing group the B.C. Turkey Farmers has said about 25,000 turkeys meant for the provincial Christmas market have been lost — a relatively small proportion of the 3.3 million kilograms of turkey typically produced for the holiday season.

Likewise, the number of chickens destroyed due to the outbreak pales in comparison with the 160 million kilograms of chicken produced in B.C. each year.


Meanwhile, bird Fluis  rampant on B.C. chicken/turkey “farms” (read: concentration camp). Is there a scapegoat connection or is it just a coincidence?

A new wildlife service report on the number of Canada geese wintering in the Lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley areas of Washington and Oregon shows the population surpasses the goal set for the migratory birds and may trigger a revision of management plans.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2014 report estimates 281,300 cacklers spend the winter in the two states, where they cause considerable agricultural damage, especially to grain and grass seed fields. The 2013 estimate was 312,200. Year-to-year population fluctuations are common; the wildlife service has set a population goal of 250,000 geese.

Crop damage from geese has been a concern for decades. Farmers argue they are essentially feeding the birds and absorbing damage for the sake of maintaining the population for hunters or nature lovers elsewhere. But the latest report hopefully will open the door to discussions of a longer hunting season or more opportunities to haze geese out of fields, said Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council.

However, the situation is complicated by migratory bird treaties and compacts involving Native American tribes, the U.S., Canada and the states of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and California, Beyer said. “It’s a long slow process,” he said.

The Oregon Farm Bureau’s wildlife committee will be discussing geese — and wolves and Greater sage-grouse — at the bureau’s annual convention next week in Salishan. Wildlife officials have been invited to discuss the population report.

A 1997 report by the Oregon Department of Agriculture estimated annual crop and livestock damage by wildlife at $147 million, with more than $100 million attributed to deer and elk. Damage from geese was estimated at $14.9 million.

Tell Minnesota Vikings: Don’t Kill Birds

 [Sponsored by the National Audubon Society]‏

The Minnesota Vikings should focus on swatting down passes — NOT BIRDS!

Their new stadium could kill thousands of migratory birds unless the stadium’s builders take immediate action to incorporate bird safe measures.

At issue is the type of glass being used in the largely-glass exterior of the massive new stadium. Current plans call for a type of glass that birds are less likely to see, which will invite deadly collisions.

Over 50,000 people have joined with Audubon to pressure the Vikings to do the right thing. Join them and urge the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) to use safer glass.

The cost of using bird friendly glass is less than one tenth of one percent of the overall cost of the new billion dollar stadium. The site of the stadium is less than a mile from the Mississippi River, along which tens of millions of birds fly between their breeding and wintering grounds every year.

Unless the Vikings and the MSFA reverse course, the new stadium could become a serious threat to America’s birds.

Please act today to urge the stadium’s builders to make the right choice — use safer glass!

Change Glass, Save Birds

The Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium could kill thousands of migratory birds unless the stadium’s builders take immediate action to incorporate bird safe measures.

Please act today to urge the stadium’s builders to make the right choice—use safer glass! Send an email to the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority urging them to take a leadership position in building a stadium that is great for both football and birds. You can send the sample letter below, or edit the letter with your own words for even greater impact.

NOTE: Your name and address will automatically be added to the bottom of the letter.

Help us reach our new goal of 100,000 letters!

Please act today to urge the stadium’s builders to make the right choice — use safer glass!

Bigotry Against Bison in Montana

Divided public comment starts rescheduled bison meeting

by LAURA LUNDQUIST, Chronicle Staff Writer The Bozeman Daily Chronicle | 0 Comments

BILLINGS – The group charged with exploring the possibility of a free-roaming bison herd in Montana has hard work ahead, according to many eastern Montana ranchers attending a Fish, Wildlife & Parks meeting.

“This is a pipe dream of somebody’s,” said Greg Oxarart of the South Phillips County Grazing District. “You as a panel — do you want bison in your backyard? Not many people do. I hope you take that into consideration. You have a tough job ahead of you.”

Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

FWP Director Jeff Hagener created the group to brainstorm where and how a free-roaming bison herd could be created in Montana.

Several of the 50 people in the audience carried signs stating “No free-roaming bison” and wore buttons bearing red X’s over a bison. Most were from Phillips and Valley counties, which contain the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge and the AmericanDSC_0128 Prairie Reserve.

Some had attended the first meeting of the discussion group in Lewistown in September. That meeting produced a list of guiding principles for any future plan, including respecting private property rights and managing bison as “wildlife” through a FWP management plan.

The group was scheduled to have its second meeting in Lewistown in April. But after receiving a number of heated emails and phone calls, Hagener canceled the Lewistown meeting at the last minute.

Some people were concerned by a series of events involving Yellowstone bison, including a court ruling that bison in quarantine remain wildlife, but a main complaint was that no time had been scheduled during the meeting for public comment.

On Monday, Hagener said no comment had been scheduled because the informal group was created for discussion and would not make any decisions. He also emphasized that the group had nothing to do with the management of Yellowstone bison.

“We are allowing public comment because a lot of the members of the group thought it was appropriate to have that,’” Hagener said. “Hopefully, we’ll come to a result that’s gone through a process with a lot of public opportunity, and we’ve allowed the public to be involved all the way along.”

Facilitator Ginny Tribe opened the public comment session with the reminder that any resulting plan would have a “no action” alternative where the state would not create a free-roaming herd.

“This group has already agreed on some of these principles so keep that in mind when you make your comments,” Tribe said.

Even so, comment ranged from vehement opposition to any bison to a proposal of the exact location on the CMR Wildlife Refuge where FWP should put 1,200 bison.

Dyrck Van Hyning displayed maps of the Southerland Bay region along the northern shore of the Fort Peck Reservoir in the CMR Refuge and said the 33,000 acres could house up to 1,200 bison, based upon the Bureau of Land Management’s grazing guide of 24 acres per cow.

“There’s no private land. There’s natural boundaries. This would be a good place for a pilot project that could start small,” Van Hyning said.

A Department of the Interior report on U.S. bison herds, released a few weeks ago, named the CMR Refuge as a good site for the transplant of bison but categorized future management as highly complex because of the resistance from nearby ranchers.

Hagener said the DOI would not move to put bison on the CMR Refuge without coordinating with the state of Montana.

That assurance didn’t assuage Phillips County ranchers, who cited concerns about property and fence damage, competition for grazing resources, the loss of livelihood and brucellosis. Some were worried about losing grazing allotments on the refuge.

Craig French of Phillips County said the meeting might not be about Yellowstone bison but ranchers can’t ignore the Yellowstone situation.

“If it was in my power to do so, I would hold these people responsible and throw them in jail for cruelty to the animals and mismanagement of the land,” French said. “At least we agree that things need to be grazed. We’re arguing over what should graze.”

Jim Posewitz of Helena also argued for the animals but said people have a moral responsibility to recover a species that they almost eliminated in the late 1880s.

“What happened in Montana is shameful. We have become the bone yard of a continent,” Posewitz said. “Will this be the point in Montana history where we become committed to finishing the wildlife restoration legacy?”

Sheep rancher Becky Weed of Belgrade said that bison and Montana cattle ranchers shared one trait that could serve as common ground for resolution: both need natural functioning ecosystems.

“It’s up to this group to try and explain to each other why the bison issue and the long-term cattle ranching issues are really one and the same,” Weed said. “This is a plea to the ranchers and to the environmentalists to understand why we all have a vested interest in seeking some kind of resolution to this.”

Following public comment, the group started problem-solving exercises to develop some recommendations by the end of Tuesday.

The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah

Paintings Courtesy Barry Kent MacKay

Paintings Courtesy Barry Kent MacKay

First, I want to thank my friend Barry MacKay for the use of his wonderful cormorant paintings in this and the previous blog post, and for alerting us about the cormorant-kill crisis (through another list).

An avid birder, wildlife advocate and Canadian blogger for Born Free USA, Barry writes, “I don’t really understand the U.S. animal protection movement’s indifference to the mass slaughtering of cormorants that has been underway for so many years, while we are stopping it in Canada, but I strongly urge anyone who cares to read a book just published: “The Double-crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah, by Linda R. Wires, Yale University Press, 2014. It came a week or two ago and gives you all the arguments you
need to help protect these wonderful birds from myth-based fear and loathing by “sportsmen” who just like to kill (the birds are inedible).”

Book Review: The Double-Crested Cormorant

The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariahthe double-breasted cormorant cover

By Linda R. Wires

Illustrated by Barry Kent Mackay

Yale University Press, 2014


Conservation biologist Linda Wires, in an utterly remarkable new volume from Yale University Press, takes up the cause of the persecuted Phalacrocorax auritus, the double-crested cormorant, a sleek, black-plumed aquatic bird from a family thirty-five or forty species found on every continent on Earth (although the double-crested is found only in North America). “More than just an account of a maligned and persecuted animal,” Wires writes, “the cormorant’s story reflects a culture still deeply prejudiced against creatures that exist outside the boundaries of human understanding and acceptance.”

The persecution she’s alluding is a deeply-ingrained cultural thing that’s almost certainly rooted in simple commerce: for almost as long as humanity has cast its nets into bays, harbors, inlets, estuaries, rivers, wetlands, and even ponds, humanity has also labored under the conviction that it has a cutthroat competitor in the double-crested cormorants twocormorant. As a result, even though cormorants in ancient China and Japan were for centuries domesticated into allies by fishermen themselves, they’ve been extensively persecuted virtually everywhere else. Wires stresses throughout her book (which is an absorbing combination natural history monograph and passionate manifesto) that this persecution continues today, and she’s very insightful on the cultural roots of it all:

When observed in its conspicuous spread-winged pose, common to several cormorant species, the cormorant acquires another potent aspect. In this notably bat- or vulture-like posture, the cormorant stands still and upright with both wings held out wide from the sides of its body. In this stance, frequently taken up after fishing, birds typically orient themselves toward the sun or the wind, presumably to dry their feathers or regulate heat loss and gain; some researchers have suggested that wing spreading occurs to heat up the bird’s food and facilitate digestion. Whatever the exact reason, the mysterious stance has an eerie, evocative quality, conjuring up images of crucifixion and vampires, and has fueled impressions about the bird’s dark nature.

“At the heart of the cormorant’s story,” she elaborates, “is the extent to which its current treatment is (or is not) based on sound science, especially relative to its management for fisheries.” No study past or present has ever demonstrated that double-crested cormorants are true rivals to any kind of commercial fishing, and yet, largely as a result of blind prejudicial momentum, near-extinction policies persist even into the 21st century. Wires lays out in cormorants onedetail the wrong-headed U.S. federal policies – several of which are up for renewal in June of this year – that allow for the wholesale slaughters of cormorant populations under the guise of “culling.”

The calamity of this kind of policy is leant all the more weight The Double-Crested Cormorant by Wires’s skill at describing the natural history of these birds, which are awkward on land (Wires notes their particularly their ungainly habit of hooking their beaks onto rocks and branches in order to pull themselves lurchingly forward, a sight I’ve seen and laughed at myself) but beautifully graceful in their natural underwater environment. They hunt by sight (they have flat corneas, which help in achieving a condition unknown to life-long book-readers: emmetropia, perfect vision) except when the water is too dark or turbulent, in which case they hunt by means as yet unknown. They nest in all manner of locations, and they’re doting parents. They’re deep divers, and although they’ll eat virtually any kind of fish they can catch (including some only a little smaller than themselves), they seem to prefer just the kind of smaller ‘junk’ species that are of no interest to commercial fisherman in any case.

It’s a quietly stunning double performance: Wires is equally proficient as both the Roger Tory Peterson of the double-crested cormorant and its Rachel Carson. Her preservationist advocacy is unflinching, and her nature-writing is eloquent – and the whole book is enlivened by gorgeous illustrations by Barry Kent Mackay, who not only captures the cormorant in all its moods and actions but also offers accompanying pictures of many of the cormorant’s fellow estuarine birds, including an especially ominous drawing of a bald eagle, and a haunting illustration of a great heron.

The result of all this is an important work, a benchmark popular study of a bird species that needs enlightened help in order to survive. The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah ought to be for sale in the gift shops of every national park in the United States at the very least – and from the sound of Wires’s conclusions, several copies sent to Congress might help too.


SC hunters kill more than 11,000 cormorants

Painting Courtesy  Barry Kent MacKay

Painting Courtesy Barry Kent MacKay

EXCLUSIVE: SC hunters kill more than 11,000 cormorants



COLUMBIA, SC – South Carolina hunters killed 11,653 double-crested
cormorants on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie in one month this winter in an
effort to reduce the number of the fish-eating birds on the lakes.

One hunter, whose name was not made public, reported killing 278 himself,
according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, which released the
information to The State newspaper on Friday.

While hunters jumped at their first chance to shoot the long-necked, black
birds, the Audubon Society screamed in protest at the results.

“That’s a horrific number,” said Norman Brunswig, Audubon’s South Carolina
director. “It’s not a defensible action. I think DNR got bullied into doing
this and didn’t know how to get out of it, and a whole lot of birds died.”

Longtime anglers on the lake pushed their state representatives to convince
DNR to do something about the rising populations of cormorants, who they
claim eat enough bait fish to impact the game fish populations. Only one
small scientific study has been done on the impact of cormorants on the
Santee Cooper lakes, and it was done during a severe drought. That study
found an average of eight fish in the gut of cormorants.

That study estimated there were 6,000 cormorants on the lakes in 2008, but
anglers say the number has grown to closer to 25,000 in recent years.

A proviso in last year’s agency budget made it difficult for DNR to turn
down the request to set up a special cormorant hunting season.
Traditionally, cormorants are a non-game, migratory species, and hunting
them has been illegal. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in recent
years has approved special programs to reduce the cormorant

Painting by  Barry K. MacKay

Painting by Barry K. MacKay

population if
states requested permission.

In most other states, those programs allow only wildlife officers and
American Indians to shoot the birds.

In South Carolina, DNR didn’t have the manpower to make a dent in the
cormorant population, so it tried a different approach. Hunters who went
through a short training program and agreed to strict regulations were
allowed to kill the birds only on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, and only
from Feb. 2-March 1.

DNR leaders were stunned when nearly 800 people showed up at the first
training session. The 1,225 people who eventually were issued permits
surpassed agency estimates “by three- or four-fold,” according to Derrell
Shipes, chief of wildlife statewide projects for the agency.

Many anglers seemed eager to help reduce the cormorant numbers, but only 40
percent of the permit-holders returned the required hunt record documents by
the March 31 deadline, Shipes said. Those who didn’t record their hunting
hours and success rate won’t be allowed to get permits if there’s another
hunt next year.

Another proviso by Rep. Phillip Lowe, R-Florence, in the 2014-15 budget
compels DNR to allow a cormorant hunt next year. If there is a 2015 hunt,
Shipes expects it will be set up differently. The agency staff has to look
at what about the first season worked well, and what didn’t.

More importantly, wildlife biologists will try to determine “how significant
is that number (of birds being killed), and what will be its impact,” Shipes

Brunswig wishes someone would do a large scientific study on the impact of
cormorants on the fishery. He’s certain it would prove “they’re slaughtering
a non-game species for no good reason.”

The 496 hunters who returned information forms spent 42,748 hours in the
field and averaged killing 23.5 cormorants in the one-month season.

The South Carolina numbers are much higher than in specially permitted hunts
in other states which rely on wildlife officers and American Indian tribes.
Hunts in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin
combined killed 21,312 cormorants in 2013, according to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

Wildlife officials in Oregon and Texas already have contacted South Carolina
to ask about details of the local hunt as they consider how to set up hunts
in their states, Shipes said.