HONOLULU — Kauai prosecutors are investigating allegations against a Hawaii homeowner suspected of killing at least four nene geese with a BB gun.
Officials are not identifying the suspect because charges have not been filed, they said.
The case was turned over to Kauai prosecutors after a 10-month investigation into the allegations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawaii News Now reported Tuesday.
“We take all of these allegations seriously. The importance of protecting our natural environment is something that is very important to the people of Hawaii,” said Kauai Prosecutor Justin Kollar.
Nene are birds native to Hawaii that are federally protected.
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. Even with ongoing conservation efforts nene are still considered to be the rarest goose species in the world.
The species came close to extinction in the 1950s.
It is believed that there are 2,000 of the geese left in the wild.
They face threats from drivers.
More than 50 nene have been stuck and killed by cars along Kauai roadways since 2015, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
On Kauai, the worst locations for nene deaths are around the Hanalei Bridge, on Kilauea Road near the Kilauea Point NWR, and on the Westside of the island, according to DLNR.
Many times it’s during the morning and evening hours when fatal strikes occur.
As a driver, the best option is to let the nene take the lead on the road, according to experts.
Carroll Cox, an environmental activist and former fish and wildlife Service agent, does not think the homeowner will be able to claim that he was unaware of the bird’s status.
“The information we received initially is he was told to leave them alone, they are endangered,” said Cox.
The homeowner could be charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. Those convicted can face penalties of up to 30 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000.