Drivers, please, slow down, watch for wildlife

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Drivers, please, don’t put the pedal to the metal.

Yes, accidents will happen, no matter how careful we are. And yes, everyone is in a hurry to get wherever it is they’re going, but if by slowing down we can save some of Kauai’s birds, then let’s do it.

A Hawaiian short-eared owl that was struck by a vehicle in late March died after being hit by another vehicle two months after it was rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Andre Raine, of the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, found the owl on March 22 and took it to the Save Our Shearwaters rehabilitation center, where it recovered with the help of Hawaii Wildlife Center staff members. They nursed the owl back to health and released it in late April.

It was found recently six miles from the release location and was in good body condition, which means the bird had been hunting and feeding successfully, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said.

Tracy Anderson, of the Save Our Shearwaters rehabilitation center, examined the dead owl and confirmed its injuries were consistent with being struck by a vehicle.

Two other owls were founded dead on Kauai earlier this year, also believed to have been struck by vehicles.

Owls are often attracted to roadsides by rats and mice, which are attracted by the easy pickings of food scraps and rubbish discarded by people, the land and resources agency said.

“The death of the owls serves as a reminder for those who drive on Kauai’s roads to slow down and be aware of owls, nene, fledgling seabirds and other birds that may be feeding or flying alongside or near roads and highways,” Raine said.

We’ll second that.

It’s not just the owls that have died due to speeding drivers.

Late last year, two of three baby nene photographed grazing in lush grass alongside the Hanalei River were killed by cars as they attempted to cross a highway.

We wish this was an exception, but it’s not. More than 50 birds have been killed in this manner in the past two years.

On Kauai, the worst locations for nene deaths are around the Hanalei Bridge, on Kilauea Road near the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and on the Westside of the island. In the final weeks of 2016, eight Hawaiian geese were killed by vehicles along a two-mile stretch of the Kaumualii Highway in Kekaha.

The greatest number of road deaths occur between December and April during the peak breeding and molting season. During this time, both adults and goslings can’t fly and are especially vulnerable to passing cars and trucks. Nene like to forage for food along highway edges and ditches that are regularly mowed.

You might wonder, why all the fuss about nene?

They are still considered the rarest goose species in the world.

Nene are only found in Hawaii and are listed as endangered due to their low number, with an estimated 1,200 remaining on Kauai.

It is believed that 25,000 nene were present in the Hawaiian Islands when Captain Cook arrived in 1778. By the mid-1940s only 50 birds remained. Since then, through captive breeding efforts and extensive predator control the population is beginning to grow with almost 3,000 birds statewide.

These deaths, while accidents, are preventable. All it would take is for drivers to heed warning signs, slow down, and exercise caution in areas where nene families commonly breed, nest, and raise their young.

It seems this is the very least we could do.

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