Wildlife & people

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:

Migrating ducks overloaded airport radar
s y s t e m s across the midwest on November 2. “It was
one of the most compressed migrations we’ve seen in
the past 25 years,” Ducks Unlimited chief biologist Jeff
Nelson told Ken Miller of the Gannett News Service.
“It was more than I’ve ever seen.” Explained Federal
Aviation Administration spokesperson Sandra
Campbell, “The primary radar system in Omaha picked
up so many targets, 29,000 to 39,000, that it shut itself
down. Ten minutes later, the same thing happened in
Des Moines. Three hours later, it occurred at Kansas
City.” This year’s total waterfowl migration is estimated
at 80 million, up from 56 million in 1990.

However, the number of breeding pairs of Canada
geese at the northern end of the Atlantic flyway fell to
29,000, down from a recent high of 118,000 in 1988.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accordingly banned
shooting migratory Canada geese in 17 states, while
state agencies have expanded seasons on nonmigratory
“nuisance” Canadas, descended from onetime captivebred
“decoys,” who were released en masse about 35
years ago when USFWS banned the use of live decoys.
The Air Force is probing whether geese
sucked into an engine caused the September 22 crash
of a $180 million E-3B surveillance plane near
Elmendorf Air Force Base, just north of Anchorage,
Alaska. The crash killed all 24 people on board.
The Bureau of Wildlife of the Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resaurces recently issued a
new draft policy on dealing with nuisance waterfowl,
including provisions prohibiting the relocation of ducks
and encouraging the relocation of geese to canned
hunts. Copies of the policy are available by e-mail
from Todd Peterson, Petert@dnr.state.wi.us.
A furor broke out at Okeechobee, Florida,
in mid-October, as residents learned that Okee-Tantie
Recreation Area staffer Mike Mulcahy, on orders from
park manager Lois Vanwinkle, several weeks earlier
shot eight tame Muscovy ducks. “We’d clean the docks
on Friday with hoses and by the time we got there
Saturday morning, they would be all full of duck doo,”
objected Vanwinkle. Returned dock renter Nancy
Devito, “Killing the ducks may be legal, but it wasn’t
morally right. They were ugly, but they were sweet.”
After five years of receiving frequent complaints
about droppings left by resident Canada
g e e s e , Jackson County, Michigan, was at deadline
contemplating opening Sparks Foundation County Park
and Cascades Golf Course to goose hunters during the
two regular state goose seasons.
Lloyd Robinson, owner of the Lake Park
Golf Course in Germantown, Wisconsin, claims he’s
kept Canada geese away by allowing hunters to kill
them from dawn until 7:30 a.m. from September to
December in each of the past two years. The approach
is endorsed by Edna Romais, vice president of the
Milwaukee-based Animal Protective League: “If they
multiply so fast and are nusiances and cause a lot of
damage, what else can you do?” But Muskego Lakes
Country Club co-owner Scott Krause says something
else must be doing it for Lake Park. “The geese are a
smart bird,” he explains. “They hear a gun go off and
they know to fly away.”
Mamaroneck, New York, in September
hired dog trainer Mary Ann O’Grady and a trio of
border collies to roust resident Canada geese from 44-
acre Harbor Island Park. So far, 10-11 hours a day of
canine patrolling seems to be holding the goose presence

Pigeons, starlings
Public opposition to pigeon-killing a p p e a r s
markedly up, including in Connellsville, Pennsylvania,
where gunners have been hired to kill pigeons in three
of the past four years, and Lawrenceville, New Jersey,
where Western Termite and Pest Control allegedly poisoned
60 pigeons on October 19 to teach their flock a
lesson on behalf of Macy’s, the anchor store at the
Quakerbridge Mall. Toronto pigeon feeders Patricia
Koenig, Patrick Grieve, and Riitta Hietanen in July put
together the most comprehensive action plan to stop
pigeon-killing that we’ve seen to date, and are willing
to share advice and information. Send a few bucks for
photocopying and postage to Koenig and Grieve c/o 31
Adalaide St. East, POB 146, Toronto, Ontario M5C
2J1. The leading expert on urban pigeons, ever ready
to help protect them, is Buzz Alpert, POB 59245,
Chicago, IL 60659.
Mexico, Missouri, is pruning the ornamental
pear trees that ring the town square, on the
advice of USDA wildlife biologist Maury Bedford, in
hopes of discouraging starlings. “People won’t walk on
the sidewalks and the park benches are covered with
poop,” says city manager Tom Parrott. “We’ve tried
every known humane effort to get them to move on. If
cutting the branches and chopping down trees doesn’t
work, we’ll start shooting.”

Bear complaints are reportedly
up in Colorado, but as in California,
where puma complaints accelerated after
passage of a 1991 “permanent” ban on
recreational cougar hunting, there is reason
to wonder if the actual number of incidents
is up as much as the volume of
amplification by the hunting lobby,
enhanced by the distribution of a new
Bear-Human Conflict Form by the State
Wildlife Division. Colorado adopted a ban
on spring bear hunting in 1992, cutting the
annual kill by legal hunters from circa 500
to an average of 257 in the three years
since. But 250 bears per year one way or
the other is still a low percentage of a bear
population officially estimated at 10,000,
and logically wouldn’t cause a disproportionate
difference in nuisance complaints.
Further, while hunters and ranchers make
much of the 450 sheep killed by bears in
Colorado during 1994, the highest toll
attributed to bears in any state, the total
amounts to just one sheep per 20 bears per
year––and a miniscule fraction of the several
hundred thousand sheep on the
Colorado range.
California Department of Fish
and Game biologist Doug Updike warns
that as rural landfills reach capacity and
are closed during the next few years, his
staff may have to shoot thousands of bears.
“It’s basically impossible to take a bear
trained to be a garbage bear and take him
some place in hopes he’ll unlearn it or forget
about it,” Updike recently told
Michael Dorgan of the San Jose MercuryNews.
“The way we have to clean up the
problem is kill the bear. There’s no place
to move a bear––we’re brimming with
bears,” an estimated 18,000 to 24,000 of
them, twice as many as a decade ago. But
bear-shooting will meet resistance, especially
in Willits, whose landfill is to close
at the end of 1996. A bear who raised a
stray puppy as one of her cubs is particularly
popular. “We’re not going to let anything
happen to those bears, no matter
what,” said Inland Mendocino County
Humane Society vice president Ken Dials.

Beaver, nutria

Hydrologists Donald Hey and
Nancy Philippi reported recently in the
journal Restoration Ecology that if the
Upper Mississippi Valley still had a third
of the 40 million beavers who lived there
350 years ago, the massive flooding of
1993 wouldn’t have happened. The
beaver population of circa 1600 probably
impounded 51 million acres of ponds, but
“The current beaver population may pond
only about half a million acres.” The
most effective way to both prevent flooding
and conserve water, they argued, is
“to hold the drop of rain or flake of snow
where it falls,” a job beavers do best.
Friends of Beaversprite president
Dr. Joseph Brown points out that
the New York Department of Environmental
Conservation is pushing legislation
to ease trapping standards with a
questionable claim that, “Between 1990
and 1993, New York’s beaver population
increased by 19%. The DNR actually
published three reports on beaver population
in 1990, and if instead of using the
one the DNR cites, the findings of the
other two are averaged, Brown says,
actual beaver population growth was just
0.5%. Then the New York beaver population
dropped from 1992 to 1993,
according to official DNR estimates, and
still isn’t back up to the 1992 level.
Louisiana State University
wildlife biologist Robert Chabreck h a s
recommended that Jefferson Parish should
proceed with killing nutria to protect
canal banks, claiming that paving the
banks with concrete could cost up to $231
million. Poisoning nutria in some areas,
trapping or shooting them elsewhere,
would cost $147,000, Chabreck said;
trapping them all would cost $215,000;
and shooting them all would cost
$232,000. Not considered were rip-rapping,
i.e. lining the banks with loose
boulders, and/or planting the banks with
Confederate jasmine, a vine whose
woody growth would discourage nutria
burrowing, according to New Orleans foe
of nutria killing Pinckney Wood. Wood
blames extensive damage to canal banks
on years of deferred maintenance.

The top rat-killing dogs in
C h i n a , claims the Xinhua news agency,
belong to pig farmer Ma Jingjui of
Pulandian, and Liu Shangzhang, of Anfu
county, Jiangxi. Ma’s single dog has
reportedly killed 14,000 rats in two years,
with a high of 40 in one day, while Liu’s
four dogs have killed 20,000 in five years.
Put out of work by the deployment
of a virus supposed to reduce the
Australian rabbit population, a professional
rabbit-shooter told a rabbit virus hotline
several times recently that he got even
by releasing 637 Bufo marinus cane toads in
vulnerable habitat. The South American
toads were brought to Australia in 1935, to
combat greyback cane beetles. They didn’t
stop the beetles, but they have spread
throughout northwestern Australia, often
displacing native amphibians. Reaching the
size of dinner plates, they secrete a poison
from glands behind their heads that can kill
a dog-sized mammal in minutes.
The Cooperative Research
Center for the Conservation and
Management of Marsupials, of Sydney,
Australia, is developing a contraceptive pill
which can be hidden in food pellets attractive
to wild kangaroos. Australia now
encourages the shooting of up to three million
of its estimated 19 million kangaroos
per year, to limit competition with sheep
for grazing land and water holes, but
acknowledges international pressure to find
a more humane alternative.
Heavy flooding in Thailand
during late September liberated about 50
pen-reared crocodiles, said government
officials, but breeder Amorn Chittapinichmat
told Reuters that, “I am definitely sure
that nearly 300 crocodiles are swimming
free.” Due to the discrepancy, no one
knows how many remain at large. About
90 registered breeders keep circa 8,000
crocs in Nakon Sawon and Uthai Thani
provinces; Amorn led a six-man team who
evacuated 2,000, 1,700 of them his own.
Weasels, introduced to Egypt
about 200 years ago, are reportedly overrunning
Cairo, competing for food and
habitat with feral cats.

Other species
Chicago Tribune hunting writer
John Husar on October 5 published instructions
from Mattoon “nuisance animal
expert” Ron Boesser for drowning raccoons
in a booby-trap. Obtaining an opinion
from Illinois Department of Natural
Resources attorney Jack Price that the
method is illegal, local wildlife rehabilitator
Cindy Erickson unsuccessfully
demanded a retraction.
The California Department of
Fish and Game has proposed selling
recreational permits to shoot feral pigs,
along with the depredation permits now
available to landowners who find the pigs a
nuisance. San Jose Mercury-News hunting
columnist Lee Quarnstrom argues that anyone
should be allowed to shoot the pigs on
sight, without a permit.
Zebra mussels caused two
reversible safety valves to fail on October
30 during a planned test at the Nine Mile
Point II nuclear reactor.

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