Oneida Lake Cormorant Hazing - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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Oneida Lake Cormorant Hazing

Introduction

In order to minimize impacts of double crested cormorant (DCC) predation on the fish community of Oneida Lake, DCC management activities have been undertaken since 1998. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducted cormorant management activities from 1998 through 2009. Along with other activities, APHIS conducted "hazing" (non-lethal) in the spring, summer, and fall to move birds off of the lake. Prior to the APHIS management program, as many as 2,700 cormorants had been counted on the lake per day during the fall migration period, while the adult summer resident population had been as high as 900 birds.

Cornell University research indicated that cormorant predation prior to 1998 was having significant negative impacts on sport fish populations of the lake, including yellow perch and walleye. After control efforts by APHIS were implemented, cormorant use of the lake and associated impacts on walleye and perch populations declined dramatically. The average number of cormorants on the lake during the spring and fall migration period dropped to less than 200 birds per day from 2005-2008, while the resident summer population was consistently less than 150 birds per day.

In 2010 the federal funding was eliminated for the APHIS cormorant management program on Oneida Lake. From 2010-2013, without this federal funding, cormorant management activities on Oneida Lake was undertaken by the New York State DEC (DEC) along with a group of citizen volunteers. Starting in 2014, the citizen volunteer program was phased out and management activities are now undertaken solely by DEC.

2016 Cormorant Hazing Program

The DEC double crested cormorant (DCC) hazing program was implemented on Oneida Lake starting in late-April and ran through early-October, 2016. DEC Fish and Wildlife (F&W) staff from both Regions 6 and 7 were involved. The management goal of the program is to keep the resident population of DCC at Oneida Lake during the spring and summer period (April through September) to around 100 birds. Due to a change in Federal Regulations, lethal control measures were no longer allowed after mid-May and only pyro-techniques were used for the remainder of the season. Lethal means have been used to reinforce the hazing efforts and to collect DCC for an ongoing diet study; no DCC were collected after mid-May by the DEC.

For the 2016 season a total of 9,389 DCC were counted with an average of 376 per trip. The average count for the April through July time period was 160 birds. The maximum count of 1,571 took place on October 4, 2016 during the migratory period. The migratory period typically runs from August through early-October and during that time hazing efforts are increased from one day per week to two. The average count for the 2016 migratory period was 635 per trip.

A total of 18 DCC, collected prior to mid-May, were examined by Cornell University for diet analysis and neither gizzard shad nor round goby were a significant portion of the diet.


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