Bird hazing begins at the coast in effort to protect young salmon

Bird hazing begins at the coast in effort to protect young salmon
Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

TILLAMOOK, Ore. - Hundreds of young salmon are now making their way to the ocean and wildlife officials want to make sure they can get there without getting picked off by hungry birds.

For the next month and a half, volunteers will be helping the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) haze cormorants in several estuaries along the coast to try to keep them from feeding on salmon smolts.

The hazing will consist of the volunteers driving at the birds in small boats and occasionally firing at them with small pyrotechnics.

Cormorants are voracious eaters and can eat up to two pounds of fish a day, which makes them a threat to salmon and steelhead populations.

"Our goal is to interrupt the birds' feeding patterns while young fish are still in the estuaries to improve their chances of getting to the ocean," said Lindsay Adrean, ODFW's avian predation coordinator.

The hazing will be done now through the end of May at the mouths of the Columbia, Nehalem, Nestucca and Coquille rivers. Volunteers with the Clatsop Fisheries Project, Port of Nehalem, Port of Bandon, North Coast Salmon and Steelhead Enhancement Fund, and Alsea Sportsmen's Association are participating in the effort. ODFW is providing the fuel for the boats.

Cormorants are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so the volunteers doing the hazing have to be careful. None of the birds can be injured or killed.

ODFW will also be doing some population surveys on the birds because it appears that cormorant populations have been increasing in some areas along the Oregon coast and Columbia River.