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Fern breaks fall

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Park search and rescue workers lift a man to safety after he fell 115 feet. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Hawaii National Park, Hawai’i –– Foliage and a park visitor’s intuition may have saved a Micronesian man’s life after he fell an estimated 115 feet down a cliff in a national park in Hawaii.

“Luckily, he landed in a dense thicket of native ‘uluhe fern, which broke his fall,” said John Broward, search and rescue coordinator for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

According to National Park Service officials, Harry Osachy, 73, of Kurtistown, fell after climbing over a barrier behind Volcano House sometime Monday and spent the night stranded. On Tuesday afternoon, a woman heard his cries for help coming from vegetation along Halema’uma’u Trail, which is directly below the hotel. Although she first thought it was a prank, she notified park staff.

A helicopter lowered Broward into the area, and he found Osachy with shoulder and pelvis injuries and suffering from dehydration, according to park officials. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center.

It is the thirteenth search and rescue mission at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park this year. Last year, park crews responded to a total of 26 incidents.

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Roadkill Report: Nenes

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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

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(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.