Oregon cormorant colony completely collapses amid Army Corps killing

Controversial culling of cormorants on Oregon's East Sand Island results in the loss of the world's largest Double-crested Cormorant colony.

Double-crested Cormorant Photo: Lucinda M/Flickr Creative Commons

In yet another horrible example of what happens when humans try to tinker with the balances of nature, a massive colony of Double-crested Cormorants on Oregon's East San Island reportedly has completely collapsed amid a controversial culling project being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As discussed earlier in this space, the Corps has moved forward with this project despite heavy opposition from the Audubon Society of Portland and other conservation organizations.

Monitors estimate that 16,000 adult cormorants have abandoned their nests on the island.

“The federal agencies recklessly and relentlessly slaughtered these birds without scientific justification, and created conditions under which complete collapse of the largest Double-crested Cormorant colony in the world was a potential outcome,” said Portland Audubon Conservation Director Bob Sallinger.

In a statement that stretches credulity, a spokesperson for the Army Corps said that, although agents were shooting birds on the island that week, her agency did not know what caused the widespread abandonment of nests, speculating that perhaps eagles or some other predator was the cause.

Portland Audubon's Sallinger wasn't buying any of that: "The agencies are now trying to scapegoat eagles for the collapse of the cormorant colony just as they scapegoat cormorants for salmon declines. The agencies have turned East Sand Island into a killing ground and put the birds under tremendous stress. Nobody should be surprised that the colony failed under these conditions. Many groups, including Portland Audubon, raised exactly this concern when they submitted comments on the federal agencies’ cormorant killing plan.”

The collapse of the East Sand Island colony comes shortly after the collapse of the second largest Double-crested Cormorant colony at the Salton Sea, due to rapidly declining water levels that left an island exposed to predators.

The Audubon Society of Portland has called for an immediate end to the killing of cormorants on East Sand Island. The chapter is working with a coalition of conservation organizations on pending litigation to halt the Army Corps' program.

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