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05-18-06 Cormorants may pose threat at lake

By Laura Walker

  Wildlife officials may have to kill cormorants nesting on Grand Lake if the bird population continues to grow.

  These birds historically nested around the Great Lakes, but found the Grand Lake area a good resource for food and nesting for the first time last year and have returned this year, Brett Beatty of the Ohio Division of Natural Resources said this morning.

  Cormorants have a derogatory impact, because they are ferocious fish eaters and their highly acidic waste destroys vegetation, he said. Officials already have begun shooting the birds on Lake Erie.

  Dave Sherman, a wildlife biologist at Crane Creek Research Station near Lake Erie, said he has helped kill 5,868 cormorants on three islands in Lake Erie this year. No more will be killed this year, but the project will continue in future years as needed.

  No exact numbers of cormorants on Grand Lake were available this morning. Wildlife officer Ryan Garrison said he has seen the birds flying around and knows of four nesting pairs.  "Four does not sound like many, but they will multiply," he said.

  Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton, who formerly worked on the Great Lakes, witnessed the birds take over portions of Lake Erie.

  "On western Lake Erie, I saw their number increase dramatically. They formed nesting colonies on some of the islands and drove out the more desirable birds, like blue herons and egrets," he said.

  Garrison said that also is his main concern here.

  "Our main concern is habitat -- that they will take over existing nests, take over the blue heron rookery," he said. "They could even take over egret nests and destroy trees. If we decide to decrease the population, it will be a direct result of how many pairs are incubating. It has nothing to do with the birds flying around."

  Beatty said the cormorants now are near the eagle's nest on the southwest end of the lake, on a really low island. He said the birds would not take over the eagle's nest, but their guano may contribute to the environment not being conducive to the eagles, causing them to leave.

  Beatty also reported there were some problems with the birds at the lake's fish hatchery. Officials there were unavailable for comment this morning.

  "We are not trying to eliminate the cormorant, we are just trying to control the population," Garrison said. "Our goal is to focus on the reproducing pairs on the lake. Once they start, the population will grow."

  -- Daily Standard reporter Janie Southard contributed to this story.


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