LIHUE — Eight nene were recently killed by vehicles along a two-mile stretch of Kaumualii Highway in Kekaha, and the state is urging drivers to slow down in that area.
In the past two years, 50 nene have been struck and killed by cars across the roadways of Kauai, said the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Wednesday. The majority of vehicle strikes typically occur in Hanalei and Kilauea. However, the most recent strikes are on the Westside of the island.
“With recent rains on the Westside, reports of nene crossing the highway in Kekaha have increased dramatically,” said Jean Olbert, a biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “Nene regularly cross the road in the evening and early morning hours making it even more important to be on the lookout during these times.”
Nene begin building nests and laying eggs as early as August, although the greatest number of road strikes occur between December and April during the peak of the breeding and molting season. It is during this time that both adults and goslings are flightless for a period of time and are especially vulnerable.
Nene are often seen foraging along the edges of highways and ditches as a result of regular mowing and runoff from the pavement, creating especially desirable grass in these areas.
“Nene remain with their mates for life and travel with their families during this time of year,” Olbert said. “After a nene is killed on a road the remaining family members are often unwilling to leave the body, resulting in multiple birds being killed over a short period of time.”
Nene crossing signs were recently posted by the Department of Transportation along Kaumualii Highway in Kekaha and the Kuhio Highway in Hanalei in regions where birds frequently cross roadways.
The DLNR-DOFAW is working with county and state transportation departments and federal partners to add more signs in high-strike zones. Drivers are asked to slow down and be extra attentive in these areas, especially in low-light conditions.
Nene are only found in Hawaii and are listed as endangered due to their low number, with an estimated 1,200 remaining on the Garden Isle.
About 25,000 nene were present in the Hawaiian Islands when Captain Cook arrived in 1778. By the mid-1940s, only 50 birds remained.
Through captive breeding efforts and extensive predator control, the population is beginning to grow with almost 3,000 birds statewide. Even with ongoing conservation efforts nene are still considered to be the rarest goose species in the world.
To report an injured or dead bird on Kauai contact the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 808-274-3433.