Home

Roadkill Report: Nenes

Leave a comment

It has been awhile since we had a Road Kill report edition.

In recent weeks, a number of nene (a big duck/goose/loon-type birds) got run over run over in and around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park has been in the middle of a drought, and nenes are attracted the areas around roads because water runoff there does wonders for irrigating the yummy vegetation. So, Park Service officials have been warning motorists to mind the “Nene Crossing” signs. As if cars weren’t enough, the nenes’ numbers have been thinning due to wild predators, but they are apparently safe from the volcanoes. At any rate, the National Park Service release on the matter is below:

Nene Killed by Vehicle

Date: November 5, 2012

Hawaii National Park, Hawai’i —- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park urges motorists to slow down and watch out for endangered nēnē while driving on Highway 11 and other park roadways.

A female nēnē was killed early Friday morning along Chain of Craters Road, and her mate remains near the site. The young pair was preparing to nest.

As nesting season begins, nēnē, particularly females, are focused on eating. They must build up enough body fat to produce eggs and sustain them through the 30-day incubation period. As a result, females and their watchful mates are out not only during the day, but are also foraging at dusk and dawn and even throughout the night when the moon is bright.

Due to recent drought conditions, the vegetation is particularly dry at many of the favored breeding sites, pushing nēnē to move further afield in search of adequate food. Unfortunately, rain runoff from the pavement, combined with ground disturbance along road edges, often makes for lush grassy strips along roads, enticing birds to feed in dangerous spots. Furthermore, nēnē may be difficult to see along roadsides because their coloring often blends in with the surrounding area.

The park has placed nēnē crossing signs on roads where birds are known to congregate or cross, and where vehicle kills occur most frequently. Motorists are urged to pay attention to the signs and proceed cautiously.

“It’s imperative that drivers use caution throughout all nēnē crossing zones. It is understandable that people get complacent when they do not see nēnē in these areas for a long time; however, the park strongly urges motorists to pay attention to the signs and slow down,” said park wildlife biologist Kathleen Misajon.

Incidents of people feeding nēnē also have contributed to recent vehicle kills, Misajon said. On Oct. 1, a 16-year-old male – a father of three fledglings last season – was killed by a vehicle along Highway 11, one mile outside of the park’s Ka’ū boundary. He was likely drawn to this location by feeding, which continues to be a problem at this site, attracting more nēnē to the roadside and increasing their odds of becoming the next road kill.

“Nēnē have significant threats to contend with, from predation by cats, mongooses and other introduced predators, to loss of habitat made worse by drought conditions. This species is really fighting an uphill battle. We ask the public to help us rebuild nēnē populations by minimizing vehicle-related nēnē deaths,” Misajon said.

Roadkill report: Nene in Hawai’i Volcanoes

Leave a comment

(Note: Originally posted June 29, 2012)

Here’s our latest installment of the roadkill report, courtesy of the National Park Service:

Mother Nēnē Struck and Killed by Vehicle
Date: June 22, 2012

Hawaii National Park, Hawai’i – Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park urges motorists to slow down and watch out for the endemic and federally endangered nēnē while driving on park roadways.

On Tuesday evening, a female Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis) died after being struck by a vehicle on Chain of Craters Road near Pauahi Crater. Her mate of 13 years escaped harm, but remains in the area. The female, known as Green DU, was a consistent breeder, and successfully raised 24 goslings. She was hatched in captivity in the park in December 1991 and was released in March 1992. Green DU was what wildlife biologists call a rare “double-clutch” breeder, who once reared two goslings to fledglings, then re-nested and raised an additional four goslings in a single breeding season.

“It is a shame that a nēnē with such a long and productive life had to die so tragically,” said Dr. Rhonda Loh, the park’s chief of resource management.

Nēnē is the Hawai’i state bird. About 200 nēnē thrive within Hawai’i Volcanoes, and there are an estimated 2,000 birds statewide. It’s not unusual to encounter nēnē in the park during their nesting season, which runs from October through March, and they are frequently spotted along roadsides throughout the year. But geese can be anywhere, from sea level to the slopes of Mauna Loa.

Nēnē Crossing signs are posted along park roadsides in places nēnē frequent most, and information on the Hawai’i’s largest native land animal can be found in the park’s visitor centers. Nēnē are quite active in the late evening and early morning, and their grayish coloring makes them difficult to see during those hours.

Park officials also caution visitors not to feed the geese because birds seeking handouts fall prey to oncoming vehicles. The equation is simple, sad, and all too often true: a fed nēnē equals a dead nēnē.

Roadkill report: Bear at Grand Teton

Leave a comment

(NOTES: Originally published June 27, 2012)

We find the National Park Service roadkill reports interesting, so there will be a few of these drifting in on Assorted Skullduggery over the next week. As you will see, park officials take this stuff seriously. Our first installment is about a bear that was hit Thursday. Below is the NPS release:

Investigation Reveals Details about Collision between a Vehicle and Grizzly Bear
Date: June 22, 2012
An ongoing investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers, with assistance from Wyoming Highway Patrol, has clarified the circumstances around a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a young male grizzly bear on June 21. The driver of the vehicle, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania man, sustained minor injuries and his sedan incurred significant damage.

The preliminary investigation has determined that a southbound vehicle slightly swerved to avoid a young grizzly bear that was trying to cross the highway. That unexpected maneuver caused the northbound vehicle to also swerve, over correct, and veer off into the sagebrush on the west side of Highway 26/89/191. At some point while the vehicle careened through the sage, it collided with the bear-the animal was not struck on the road surface. The vehicle came to rest about 80 feet off the road. Findings from the accident scene reconstruction suggest that neither vehicle was speeding at the time of the incident. The daytime speed limit on this highway is 55 mph.

The young bear was still breathing when park rangers arrived at the scene, but it died shortly after. Grand Teton National Park biologists removed the carcass and took hair and tissue samples as well as a tooth, which determines the age of the bear. Biologists will submit a hair sample for DNA testing to determine whether this bear is related to identifiable grizzlies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team conducts research on grizzly bears throughout the 22-million-acre GYE as part of a long-term effort to monitor the population. The hair sample will be matched with available data collected by this interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists. The team has obtained data on grizzlies through biological samples and radio-collar tracking since 1973. The team is composed of representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

This is the first bear fatality caused by a vehicle on park roads this year. However each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more bears (grizzly and/or black bears) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal.

In the past six years, vehicle-related deaths of bears include: 2006, one black bear; 2007, two black bears and one grizzly bear cub; 2009, one black bear; and 2010, one grizzly bear, one black bear cub, and one black bear cub and two other bears (unverified species) that were injured but left the scene; 2011, two black bears, according to the National Park Service.

These encounters between vehicles and bears — among other wildlife accidents — serve as a reminder that animals actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife, or those viewing wildlife, along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits-especially at night-can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to bears, other wildlife such as wolves, elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines may also be encountered on or near park roads. (6.27.12)