Blackbird and Starling Management
In compiling data for the 2008 blackbird and starling operational activities, WS for the first time used a new computer modeling method developed by its National Wildlife Research Center. The model was designed to more accurately estimate the number of birds removed at dairies, feedlots and staging areas with the avicide DRC-1339.
This new, improved estimation method reflects WS’ ongoing interest to ensure that the most accurate and complete program information is provided to the public, and to maximize transparency and accountability in its programs.
Bird species affected by WS’ newly-refined reporting procedures are: European starlings, red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, and grackles (3 species: boat-tailed, common, and great-tailed). In FY 2008, WS reported taking 4,210,411 individuals of these species, which is a 148% increase from those taken in 2007.
Three invasive birds (European starlings, English/house sparrows, and pigeons) and the blackbird group (blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds, crows, magpies) accounted for 90.6% of all animals lethally removed by WS during FY 2008.
During FY 2008 aerial operations to manage predators and invasive species, WS lethally removed 50,460 animals in 16 states using fixed wing aircraft (30,460 animals) and helicopters (20,000). The most numerous species taken with this method were coyotes (36,377) and feral swine (13,620). No nontarget animals were taken and no accidents or incidents involving aircraft were reported.
The range and population expansion of invasive species has created great public concerns about their potential harm to native ecosystems and agricultural resources as well as increased disease transmission. Executive Order 13112 directs federal agencies to address invasive species issues. In FY 2008, 11 of the species for which WS reported increased lethal removal were invasive species. These included green and spiny-tailed iguanas in Florida, coqui frogs in Hawaii, nutria, feral swine, European starlings, rock pigeons, and English/house sparrows.
Over the past decade wolf populations have grown and the range distribution has increased. Interagency management actions, such as WS removal of wolves involved in damage situations, have also increased in response to requests from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountains is 1,639 wolves, five times higher than the minimum population recovery goal set by the US. The Western Great Lakes gray wolf population is now estimated at 4,000 wolves, which exceeds the recovery limit established by the USFWS.
At the request and with approval of the wildlife agencies managing gray wolves, WS provides a legal, approved procedure to address wolf predation on livestock. This integral part of the gray wolf recovery program can encourage public acceptance of wolves.
WS conducts depredation investigations and may remove wolves implicated in predation. This work occurs in the areas of cooperative interagency management of reintroduced wolves (Rocky Mountains and the Southwest) and naturally-occurring wolves (Great Lakes). The lethal removal of wolves increased from 340 in FY 2007 to 396 in FY 2008, or 16.4%.
No nontarget wolves were removed; no wolves were removed in the Southwestern Mexican wolf recovery project area; and no wolves were taken unintentionally with M44 or LPC.
Predators, Raptors and Vultures
The lethal removal of predators, raptors, and vultures declined slightly in FY 2008 compared to FY 2007. This includes black bear, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, raptors and vultures. The number of coyotes taken by WS in FY 2008 (89,300) was slightly lower than the number taken in FY 2007 (90,326).