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State removes 300 endangered nene from Kauai Airport

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: May 01 2012 10:27:32 PM HST
Updated On: May 01 2012 09:23:00 PM HST

It could take five years and cost millions to remove the endangered birds.

HONOLULU -

It has been a year since Governor Neil Abercrombie issued an emergency declaration to relocate a growing flock of endangered waterbirds from the Kauai airport.

Take-offs and landings can be risky, when it comes to planes and birds.
Bird strikes are a hazard, and the state has workers on duty to make sure the birds don't get sucked into jet engines.

Wildlife biologists are just now winding down efforts to round up 300 nene and transport them to Maui and the Big Island.

It is Lemuel Illstaron's job to scare the birds away from the runway by firing blanks from his gun.
"The main purpose is just to keep them off the runway. We normally see the nene in here, come winter time. They usually hang out in this area here or over there early in the morning, or late in the afternoon," said Illastron.

We are told there was one close call of a Hawaiian goose getting clipped by an aircraft.
State workers have removed 300 nene from the area in the last few months.
Once the birds were trapped, they were quarantined, to make sure they were disease-free.

"The long term plan is to move as many as possible in the first two years and then when we have drawn the number down to really low numbers, then we will be able to haze the area and prevent the birds from nesting there," said Scott Fretz, a wildlife biologist with the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The nene are attracted to the Kauai Lagoons, a golf course development nearby.

“The grasses and golf courses and water are just inherently attractive to nene. Golf courses mow their grass every three days, and nene love the young shoots that come up," said Fretz.

But perhaps, there is added urgency about relocating the flock.
In the last few weeks, the state has set mongoose traps along the perimeter fence and by runway three, because of credible sightings of the waterfowl at the airport and at the Kauai harbor.

Kauai's nene population has done so well, because it has been mongoose-free.
Lihue airport workers are now on the alert, with another target to watch out for.

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