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Corps Says Culling Cormorants In Columbia River Estuary To Protect Salmonids Over For This Season
Posted on Friday, November 03, 2017 (PST)

With just 248 double-crested cormorants culled by federal hunters at East Sand Island in the lower Columbia River estuary, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is declaring the operation over for the year.


In the most recent posted management timeline update (, September 13, the Corps said it observed about 1,500 double-crested and 3,000 Brandt’s cormorants “loafing” on the western part of the island. It also reported 140 to 150 active double-crested cormorant nests, as well as chicks of both species about two to three weeks old.


The Corps was permitted in 2017 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to cull 2,408 double-crested cormorants and destroy up to 4,058 of the cormorants’ nests in order to “reduce the overall population of the colony to a number that represents an acceptable level of predation on juvenile salmonids,” the Corps’ management team said in September.


However, culling, harassing and egg oiling of the birds and their nests was suspended by Wildlife Services, the Corps’ contractor, April 27 and has not resumed.


“We will not resume culling this year,” said Karim Delgado, public affairs specialist for the Corps. “As outlined in our environmental impact statement, the number of double-crested cormorants at East Sand Island must reach at least 90 percent of the expected post-culling abundance for 2017 before culling can continue. Because conditions have held such that the population has remained under that 90 percent threshold, culling will remain suspended for the rest of the year.”


In June, the Corps said that as many as 40 eagles harassed the sea birds, keeping them from nesting on the island and driving them to other areas, such as local bridges, as well as Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.


This is the third year of culling for the Corps and the second year in a row that the birds have been late to nesting, requiring the Corps to suspend its operations designed to reduce the number of breeding pairs in the lower river. Cormorants feed on juvenile salmon and steelhead, some of which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.


Last year culling was suspended in mid-May and Wildlife Services didn’t resume until October 3. By mid-July last year some 15,300 cormorants were seen “loafing” on the island. By August about 23,000 were on the island and by September many were rebuilding nests and laying eggs. Still, the agency managed to cull nearly 3,000 of the cormorants in 2016, almost all of those by the end of October.


Beyond 2018, the goal is to support a local colony of double-crested cormorants while minimizing the potential for expansion to levels that would hurt the chances of survival for salmonids protected under the ESA, the Corps says.


That would mean a cormorant colony at East Sand Island of between 5,380 and 5,939 breeding pairs, while modifying the island so that it would support the smaller colony.


Also see:


--CBB, September 22, 2017, “Estuary Cormorants Nesting In Low Numbers; Corps Unsure If Culling Will Resume Before Season Ends,”


--CBB, August 11, 2017, “Due To Low Numbers Of Estuary Cormorants Showing Nesting Activity, Culling Remains Suspended,”


--CBB, July 7, 2017, “Corps Continues Suspension Of Culling Salmon-Eating Cormorants In Estuary,”


--CBB, June 16, 2017, “With Cormorant Nesting On East Sand Island Stalled, Boat-Based Shooting Of Birds Suspended,”


--CBB, April 28, 2017, “Third Year Of Shooting Salmon-Eating Cormorants, Oiling Nests: Goal Is To Kill 2,409 Birds,”


-- CBB, September 9, 2016, “Court Allows Continued Culling Of Cormorants In Columbia Estuary To Reduce Predation On Salmonids,”


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