From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1998:

Responding to citizen complaints
about noise, stench, and filth, city
officials in Carrollton, Texas said,
they revved up a bulldozer before
dawn on July 23 and flattened an
egret rookery in mid-nesting season.
Neighbors wakened by the
machinery and falling trees discovered
the damage was mostly done.
Hundreds and perhaps thousands of
cattle egret chicks were crushed,
along with mothers who didn’t leave
their nests. Rescuers saved an estimated
300 chicks.
Egrets are protected undernder
the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty
Act. Carrollton was supposed to
have a permit from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service before touching the
site. It did not. Neither did
“Operation Remove Excrement,” as
Carrollton officials called it, make
the neighborhood more sanitary.
Instead, warned Dallas County
Health and Humane Services
Department medical director Karine
Lancaster, the bulldozers might
have spread the fungal spores that
cause histoplasmosis.

Not getting a permit to kill
the egrets might have been a deliberate
strategy to avoid red tape, considered
Dallas Morning News
reporter Todd Bensman on August 4.
“Days before ordering an
egret rookery bulldozed,” Bensman
reported, “Carrollton officias
learned that a consultants’ report and
a poll of residents recommended
building a new library or senior center
on the spot. Beth Little
Bormann, the assistant city manager
who oversaw the bulldozing, was
previously director of Carrollton’s
library system,” Bensmen noted.
“Ms. Bormann served on a task force
that recommended the site for a new
and bigger library.”
Commented former
Carrollton city councillor Jim
Schouten, “It was their opportunity
to get rid of the trees, the birds and
everything, and then they could use
it for whatever they wanted to.”
Bormann, interim parks
director Tony Chrisman, and environmental
health director Antonio
Romo were each suspended for two
weeks without pay.
The case drew national
publicity, but as ANIMAL PEOP
L E went to press more than two
weeks later, the Fish and Wildlife
Service had yet to charge any of the
alleged culpable parties.
Just six days later the shotgun
massacre of from 850 to 1,000
cormorant fledglings came to light at
Little Galloo Island, near Henderson
Harbor at the northern end of Lake
Ontario. Cormorants too are a protected
species. But Henderson
Harbor is a town of out-of-work fishing
guides, who prefer to blame the
birds rather than overfishing and climate
change for the decline of fish
stocks. The guides grew up in an era
when cormorants were in steep
decline due to food chain build-up of
DDT. Absorbing the residues of
DDT with the fish they ate, cormorants
and other fish-eating birds
laid eggs so fragile that most broke
before offspring were ready to hatch.
Only 125 nesting pairs of
cormorants remained on the Great
Lakes when DDT was banned in
1973. By last year there were an
estimated 8,400 nesting pairs on
Little Galloo Island alone.
Diving to snatch fish from
three or four feet deep in the water,
cormorants are easily hated by
unsuccessful fishers––even though
studies of feces and stomach contents
regurgitated to feed young indicate
that only 0.5% of their take are
of so-called sport species.
As New York state fisheries
biologist Russell McCullough
put it to Andrew C. Revkin of T h e
New York Times, “They’re an inyour-face
kind of bird.”
Cormorants have been
massacred at Little Galloo off and on
since 1992, a few dozen at a time.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and
New York Department of Environmental
Conservation have been slow
to catch and prosecute culprits.
On March 4, 1998, meanwhile,
the Fish and Wildlife Service
issued a Depredation Order for the
Double-Crested Cormorant that
allows catfish farmers in 13 southern
and midwestern states an exemption
from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
if they shoot cormorants “found
committing or about to commit
depredations” against their ponds.
The Fish and Wildlife
Service estimated that catfish farmers
might kill as many as 92,400 cormorants
per year, up to 10% of all
cormorants in the U.S.––and said the
cormorants ate 18 to 20 million catfish
per year as far back as 1989-
1990, when the major studies of
their diet were done.
At least one frustrated
sport fisher got the message.
Neither was the Carrollton
egret massacre out of step with governmental
precedent. In April 1998,
the Fish and Wildlife Service authorized
the city of Bethany,
Oklahoma, just a couple of hours’
drive to the north, to kill up to 500
cattle egrets in response to citizen
complaints similar to those voiced in
Carrollton. The case became controversial
only when four city employees
shotgunned more than 200 nesting
great egrets by mistake.

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