eagles continue to harass double-crested cormorants at East Sand Island in the
lower Columbia River estuary, essentially bringing all nesting activity on the
island to a halt.
June, bald eagles have driven the cormorants from the island and onto bridges
in the area to nest. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers observers have also seen several
thousand cormorants nesting in Willapa Bay as well as in Grays Harbor in
of the cormorants was suspended April 27 due to “lack of colony formation on
the island. Photos show daily attempts by double-crested cormorants to initiate
nesting are continually interrupted by widespread disturbances by bald eagles,”
according to a Corps timeline, and has not resumed.
program to cull and oil nests, as well has other hazing activities to otherwise
discourage the presence of cormorants in the lower Columbia River estuary is
designed to protect migrating threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead
smolts by reducing the cormorant population that feed upon them. It is an
action called for by reasonable and prudent alternative 46 of the 2014
biological opinion for Columbia River salmon and steelhead.
June 20, the Corps says in its management update, “Aerial surveys conducted
over the Columbia River are unable to find vast numbers of cormorants in the
estuary, though about 1,000 to 1,500 are observed at the south shoreline.”
that same date, nest surveys at the Astoria-Megler Bridge that crosses the
Columbia River upstream of East Sand Island found 686 double-crested cormorant
and 76 pelagic cormorant nests, with some Brandt’s cormorants “loafing” on the
lower part of the bridge.
June 26, 7,000 to 9,000 of the sea birds were seen clustered tightly along the
shoreline of East Sand Island, the update says in its last entry for the month.
While there were 12 bald eagles present, there were no dispersal events.
ebb and flow of cormorants on the island was typical for June.
8,500 of the birds were observed on the island June 5, but harassment by 25 to
30 eagles had dispersed nearly all the cormorants by the next day.
birds continue to move to local bridges. The Lewis and Clark Bridge that spans
Youngs Bay in Astoria had 146 active nests on June 6, and as many as 10,000
cormorants overnighted on the Astoria-Megler Bridge June 10.
3,000 to 4,000 cormorants returned June 13, but as many as 17 eagles dispersed
them on and off over the day. When the Corps visited the island that day, they
saw two cormorant carcasses, along with eggshell fragments over the entire
island, “confirming that cormorants attempted nesting earlier in the season.”
number of nests observed June 17 on the Astoria-Megler Bridge dropped slightly
to 645 double-crested and 77 pelagic nests. Chicks were present that were
estimated to be seven to 10 days old. About 10,000 cormorants roosted on the
Corps’ cormorant management timeline is at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/environment/cormorants/.
June 15, Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Portland Audubon Society,
sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has issued three
depredation permits to the Corps, urging the Service to withdraw the permit and
terminate the project.
is time to permanently terminate this project,” the letter says. “We urge the
US Fish and Wildlife Service to permanently withdraw the depredation permits
that it issued earlier this year and allow the rewrite of the Columbia River
Salmon BiOp, ordered by the Federal Court in Oregon, to be completed before
considering next steps regarding cormorants on East Sand Island.”
Service’s response to Sallinger says it is aware of what is happening with the
cormorants in the estuary and is working with the Corps to monitor and manage
is consistent with the two phone conversations we had with them this season,”
Sallinger said. “In the first (early in the season) they told us that they were
adding no measures at all to address last year’s collapse when they issued this
year’s permits. In the second, more recently, they said that they were leaving
it up to the Corps as to how to address this year’s decline and that the
adaptive management framework in the EIS was sufficient.”
16,000 cormorants also left their nests in 2016. Sallinger called that incident
a complete collapse of the largest double-breasted cormorant colony on the West
Coast and blamed the hazing and culling for the collapse. He likened the event
with what is happening today at East Sand Island.
is the third year in a row the Corps has been shooting cormorants in areas of
the lower estuary (generally west of the Astoria-Megler Bridge to East Sand
Island) and dousing eggs and destroying nests on the island.
plan calls for reducing the double-crested cormorant population in the estuary
from about 13,000 nesting pairs to 5,300-5,900, all by late 2018.
year’s goal is to shoot 2,409 birds and addle eggs in 4,058 nests (750 nests
are allowed to be destroyed). The Corps has through January 31, 2018 to
complete this year’s actions.
addition to double-crested cormorants, in 2017 the agency is allowed to take 72
Brandt’s cormorants and 7 Pelagic cormorants for depredation control purposes
due to misidentification of the birds in 2017.
largest colony of nesting Caspian terns feeding on juvenile salmon and
steelhead in the lower Columbia River estuary has also been a problem and the
Corps is proposing a relocation area in the Lower Klamath National Wildlife
Refuge along the California/Oregon border.
primary purpose of the proposed action is to develop alternative nesting
habitat locations for Caspian terns, in conjunction with social facilitation
measures, with the intention of reducing the number of terns nesting at East
Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary, thereby reducing their predation on
juvenile salmonids through the estuary.
Corps is seeking public comment on a draft supplemental environmental
assessment (SEA) for the Caspian Tern Nesting Island Construction Project,
which includes a draft Amended Finding of No Significant Impact and a Clean
Water Act Section 404 Alternatives Analysis.
draft SEA evaluates the environmental effects of demolishing a floating island
on Sheepy Lake within the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and
constructing a permanent rock island in its place, according to a Corps news
Corps prepared the documents pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act
because it is changing the proposed action described in a 2009 environmental
draft SEA and public notice for the proposed action is available for review at www.nwp.usace.army.mil/environment/sheepy-lake
or comments regarding the draft document should be directed to Mr. Paul Schmidt
by phone at 503-808-4772, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail
Army Corps of Engineer District, Portland
Box 2946, Portland, Oregon 97208-2946
Corps will consider all comments received or postmarked by July 27, 2017, and
make a determination regarding the significance of impacts resulting from the
proposed action. Reference public notice number CENWP-PM-E-17-02 in the
June 16, 2017, “With Cormorant Nesting On East Sand Island Stalled, Boat-Based
Shooting Of Birds Suspended,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439105.aspx
April 28, 2017, “Third Year Of Shooting Salmon-Eating Cormorants, Oiling Nests:
Goal Is To Kill 2,409 Birds,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438803.aspx
CBB, September 9, 2016, “Court Allows Continued Culling Of Cormorants In
Columbia Estuary To Reduce Predation On Salmonids,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437461.aspx
August 5, 2016, “Court Hears Oral Arguments On Killing Estuary Cormorants To
Protect Juvenile Salmonids,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437255.aspx
July 1, 2016, “Plaintiffs Press Case Against Cormorant Culling In Court; 2,394
Birds Shot So Far This Year,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437040.aspx
June 17, 2016, “Is Salmon/Steelhead BiOp Driving Cormorant Culling? Not
Necessarily Says Corps” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436943.aspx
June 2, 2016, “Estuary Cormorants Abandon Nest, Eggs After 'Significant
Disturbance;' Audubon Blames Feds' Hazing,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436828.aspx
May 13, 2016, “Corps More Than Two-Thirds Complete In Killing Over 3,000
Estuary Salmonid-Eating Cormorants,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436716.aspx
April 1, 2016, “For Second Year, Corps Issued Permit To Cull Cormorants In
Lower Columbia; Allows Killing 3,216 Birds,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436360.aspx
October 2, 2015, “Corps Increases Cormorant Culling In Recent Days; Killing Opportunities
Ending Soon As Birds Disperse,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435133.aspx
August 14, 2015, “Audubon Releases Internal USFWS Report Questioning Whether
Culling Cormorants Improves Fish Survival,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434741.aspx
May 29, 2015, “Culling Cormorants Begins: Goal Is To Reduce 15,000 Breeding
Pairs To Under 6,000 by 2018,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434132.aspx
May 15, 2015, “Federal Judge Allows Corps’ Cormorant Culling Plan to Proceed In
Columbia River Estuary,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434022.aspx
CBB, May 8, 2015, “Columbia River Bird Colonies Create Deadly Gauntlet For
ESA-Listed Salmon and Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433949.aspx
April 24, 2015, “Conservation, Animal Welfare Groups File Lawsuit To Stop Plan
To Cull Estuary Cormorants,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433797.aspx
CBB, April 17, 2015, “USFWS Grants Corps One-Year Depredation Permit To Begin
Culling Columbia Estuary Cormorants,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433730.aspx
CBB, March 27, 2015, “Audubon Announces Intent to Sue Corps Over Plan To Cull
Cormorants From Columbia River Estuary,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433509.aspx
CBB, Feb. 6, 2015, “Final EIS Released On Reducing Estuary Cormorant Numbers;
Proposes Both Shooting And Egg Oiling,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433117.aspx