Investigation continues into bird killings

LAWAI — The Sunday discovery of 34 dead wedge-tailed shearwater birds near Kauai’s Spouting Horn remains under investigation, but officers with Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources still believe dogs are behind the killings.

“The birds weren’t eaten, cats eat them. Rather, they were bitten and shaken, which leaves broken bones, wings and large puncture holes,” said Sheri Mann, Kauai Department of Forestry and Wildlife district manager.

Mann explained wildlife biologists have seen this pattern before and it’s almost certain dogs are the culprit, but more answers will come from a necropsy of the birds.

The birds were found mostly near the parking lot end of Lawai Road. The carcasses have been taken to the Department of Fish and Wildlife baseyard in Lihue for necropsy.

DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said there’s no word yet on the necropsy, and DLNR staff members have undertaken a dog trapping effort, with the permission of private landowners in the area.

“The dogs are just acting on instinct,” Mann said.

Mann explained that many seabirds can’t fly off from the ground very quickly, and that’s why so many of them were killed, rather than escaped.

“They also don’t have the fight or flight sense that many animals and humans have, due to evolving without predators,” Mann said. “One would assume they would fly away if any frightening action occurs, but not being able to get airborne really quickly, and not naturally fearing many things means they are incredibly vulnerable.”

The Spouting Horn colony, according to 2015 estimates, is about 700 pairs, and is considered to be the second-largest colony on the island, next to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

There are a few other smaller colonies scattered around the coastline.

While they’re confirming their suspicions about the cause of the bird kill, Mann explained that the department will be working to spread information about keeping dogs leashed and supervised.

“Essentially it comes down to yet another education campaign,” she said.

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