PLATTSBURGH — Efforts to control cormorant populations on Lake Champlain will take place on several fronts this summer.
The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative is targeting cormorant nesting sites on islands in New York and Vermont to prevent the waterfowl from reproducing.
“The primary reason for managing cormorant populations is to protect the lake’s colonial nesting birds and their habitat,” said Dave Tilton, supervisory fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Vermont.
“Cormorant numbers have been managed in recent years to prevent populations from expanding and colonizing new islands.”
Besides the damage they can cause to habitat, anglers fear the fish-eating birds are also impacting the lake’s fishery.
OIL AND WATER
As cormorant populations mushroomed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, efforts focused on reducing those numbers to a more manageable level, including oiling cormorant eggs to prevent them from hatching, scaring cormorants from their nesting sites with consistent noise and water spraying and shooting cormorants while they are feeding on the lake.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department will continue to focus on state-owned islands for cormorant-control efforts.
“We’ve been doing this for quite a long time now,” said John Gobeille, wildlife biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department in Essex Junction. “I’m essentially covering the state islands and state parks and some state-owned wildlife management areas. Basically, we’ve been trying to keep cormorants from nesting on islands and destroying habitat and displacing wildlife.”
Much of the department’s efforts have focused on the use of a water cannon to shoot high-powered sprays of lake water at the nesting sites to prevent cormorants from hatching eggs.
“Numbers seem to have stabilized,” he said. “We’re not seeing the increasing numbers of birds like we use to years ago.”
The Nature Conservancy, owners of Four Brothers Islands off Willsboro in New York, are supporting efforts to control cormorants on those islands by using egg-oiling techniques to discourage cormorant nesting.
Former University of Vermont professor Dr. David Capen has headed the project for the past several years and will continue this summer with assistance from the Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC will also conduct control measures in areas around Crown Point and south into Lake George.
“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is very pleased to be working with its partners to implement a science-based management program for Lake Champlain’s colonial water birds,” DEC Assistant Commissioner for Natural Resources Kathleen Moser said in a statement. “This program is an excellent example of finding common ground amongst a broad diversity of partners.”
Cormorants began arriving on Lake Champlain in late March from their wintering areas in the southern United States.
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