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To Bad Cass County - is not over run by these :roll:

USFWS May Allow Cormorant Kills
States may start cormorant kills
Rising numbers hurting fisheries, vegetation

By BETSY CLAYTON, [email protected]

The double-crested cormorant better watch out.

The fish-gobbling water birds widely despised by fishing groups and resort operators but adored by birdwatchers may soon find Florida's waters less hospitable.

Skyrocketing cormorant populations prompted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to propose lifting some federal protections, meaning Florida and 23 other states may be able to kill cormorants in areas where the birds damage fish and vegetation.

Cormorants have been federally protected since the early 1970s, when pesticides and humans threatened their existence. Since then, the hook-billed, diving birds have rebounded dramatically, with their North American population estimated at some 2 million.

"The cormorant has had a significant (negative) effect in some areas," said Paul Schmidt, assistant director of migratory birds with the Fish & Wildlife Service.

Under the proposal, the 24 states, American Indian tribes and the U.S. Department of Agriculture may devise plans to kill cormorants by destroying eggs and shooting birds. The states must inform federal authorities of their plans and provide information about the number of birds killed, Schmidt said.

A 60-day public comment period on the cormorant proposal expires May 16. If adopted, Schmidt said, cormorant control measures could be in place by fall.

Cormorants are hated in some communities. Each bird can gulp a pound of fish per day, and their highly acidic waste destroys vegetation.

The black-feathered creatures are commonly sighted in the bird-watching mecca of Southwest Florida, with its plentiful rivers, swamps and coasts. The lack of oil on their wings makes them able to swim completely underwater - unlike ducks - to catch their prey with their hooked beaks.

Then they typically sit on branches, sun themselves and dry out.

Nature lovers delight in watching the long-necked birds hunt and relax.

"They sun themselves kind of like tourists, sitting there, turning their heads one way and then the other - kind of like spring breakers," said Mary Kay Cassani, an avid Lee County birdwatcher.

Watching them efficiently catch fish, though, also sheds light on why anglers may despise them. A little research on the birds' name indicates what was first thought of the bird. The word "cormorant" is derived through French from the Latin "corvus marinus" or "sea crow."

As news about the federal proposal spreads across Florida, it also is making its way into news in northern states such as Michigan, where Cassani used to live and has heard of conflicts between the birds and anglers.

The Michigan Audubon Society has yet to review the latest studies on cormorant numbers and environmental impact, for example, but a spokesman said the group may not oppose the plan. State and federal authorities must continue to monitor cormorant numbers if a control plan is implemented.

"We're not anti-management, we're pro making wise management decisions," said Ray Adams, chairman of Audubon's research committee. "I don't think there's any question we've had a tremendous increase in cormorant numbers."

Larry Lienczewski, a Bay City, Mich., charter fisherman, motors his boat from Bay City to Oscoda every year and runs through thousands of cormorants, all feeding in the water.

"It's unbelievable. We see them all over the bay," he said. "I'd say in the last seven or eight years it's really gotten out of hand."

Cormorants flock to the Les Cheneaux Islands off the southeast Upper Peninsula coast where thousands nest.

Brian Harrison, owner of The Great Outdoors bait and tackle shop in nearby Cedarville, accused the Fish & Wildlife Service of reacting too slowly to explosive cormorant population growth. He said the birds have devastated the yellow perch fishery while also muscling out blue herons, terns and plovers that used to nest on the islands.

"The people who actually make the decisions on these things are totally removed from the effect of (cormorants)," he said.

"Ten years ago I kind of thought it was a controllable thing," he said.

Today, he doubts whether locals will be able to kill enough birds to significantly reduce the population.

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I think they need to open a season on them. It would be fun to go after them even if they are really ugly birds. I see thousands of them when hunting the mississippi every fall. There have been hundreds of them around just outside of town for the last week and a half along with a bunch of pelicans. I know a few good spots on the mighty miss that would be really good spots to pass shoot them in the fall.
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