Saturday, May 15, 2004
Ontario Culls Cormorants From Lake Ontario Island
by Brian Kelly, Times Staff Writer
First published: Saturday, May 15, 2004
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has begun shooting up to 6,000 double-crested cormorants that inhabit a Lake Ontario island between Brighton and Kingston, Ontario.
Staff from the provincial agency began killing adult birds May 6 on High Bluff Island, according to Steven Payne, a media relations officer for the agency.
Mr. Payne said staff members will use .22-caliber rifles to cull about a quarter of the island's population of 24,000 cormorants.
He said the agency is also conducting egg-oilings, harassment tactics and nest destruction in an effort to control the birds, whose activity and waste has stripped the island of its vegetation.
"It's not connected to fishing; it's to save the island," he said. "Effectively, they are destroying the island."
The state Department of Environmental Conservation plans to shoot up to 600 cormorants this summer on the U.S. side of the lake, with most of the birds to be taken from Little Galloo Island, a 52-acre island 5 miles from Henderson Harbor.
A new federal rule, adopted in October, gave New York and other states greater authority to manage cormorants. On the eastern end of Lake Ontario in New York, the primary concern raised by commercial and recreational fishermen has been that cormorants have greatly depleted the population of smallmouth bass and other fish. There are also environmental concerns regarding cormorant waste on Little Galloo Island.
DEC also has been oiling cormorant eggs since 1999 with the goal of reducing the cormorant population to about 1,500 nesting pairs by this year. In 1994, the cormorant population on Little Galloo was believed to have peaked at 8,410 nesting pairs. Last year, there were an estimated 4,251 nests on the island.
Oiling eggs suffocates the embryos inside. Not knowing the embryos are dead, the adult cormorants continue to roost, thus preventing a second hatching.
Mr. Payne said the plan for High Bluff Island is to kill up to 6,000 adult cormorants, although that number could be lower if the staff members detect that unoiled eggs have begun to hatch.
"We are only culling adult birds," he said. "When we see any sign of hatching, the cull will stop."
DEC is also increasing its cormorant control methods on three other lakes this year. On Oneida Lake, DEC plans to use experimental methods that may include pyrotechnics, chasing birds with boats, predator eye balloons, hand-held lasers and propane cannons to harass the birds and prevent them from nesting.
A nest management program also will be initiated at Buffalo Harbor on Lake Erie and at Lake Champlain sites.