MI Locals rail against double-crested cormorant


Mar 11, 2001
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Public Enemy Number One

Locals rail against double-crested cormorant

By SCOTT BRAND/Sault Ste. Marie Evening News

MACKINAW CITY -- Resembling a modern-day lynch mob, approximately 200 people declared the double-crested cormorant Public Enemy Number One Tuesday evening, urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize an aggressive campaign against the "fish-killing machines."

"The plan that you have is too little, too late," said Cedarville resident Ken Drenth. "We want more and we want it faster."

The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently proposing to allow state, federal and tribal natural resource agencies to establish cormorant control programs in specified areas. Population control could include shooting, destruction of nests and coating the unhatched eggs with oil, reducing the North American population of 2 million birds by roughly 10 percent.

A figure most in attendance found to be way too small.

Eckerman resident Gaylord Alexander, an ex-fisheries biologist, provided some startling calculations regarding the Great Lakes cormorants. In the year 2000, there were an estimated 115,000 breeding pairs of cormorants. Adding up the increase in population and the younger birds not considered as part of the breeding stock, Alexander figured there are 620,000 cormorants eating 1 1/4 pounds of fish each day for a total of 775,000 pounds per day. Multiplying that figure by five months or 150 days, Alexander figures more than 116 million pounds of fish are consumed each year; over 135 million when the young of the year are added to the mix.

"They eat what's available," he said, estimating their diets are comprised of 10 percent gamefish and 90 percent forage fish. "If this forage was eaten by salmon, pike, or walleye we could be raising 22 million more pounds of fish as opposed to feeding the cormorants."

Alexander said the bird should be treated as a pest -- likening it to the possum, red squirrel and rat with any and all methods employed to reduce the population by at least 90 percent.

Speakers from Houghton Lake to Sault Ste. Marie, Drummond Island to Eckerman voiced similar opinions.

Mark Engle, a Cedarville area resident, said he has been participating in a cormorant study for many years and the only change he has seen is a continued increase in their population. Citing a segment of the Bible, which referred to the cormorant as a vile, unclean creature, Engle lobbied for a "Holy War" against the bird to room full of laughter and applause.

While there were many advocates for shooting the fish-eating birds, Larry McEvers of the Hiawatha Sportsman's Club said this establishment had a permit to shoot the birds, but out of 2,000 or so on club property -- they only managed to shoot around 100.

"They cleaned out over 4,000 brook trout last year in three weeks," said McEvers. A second representative of the club added that in order to take that many birds, volunteers were needed from daylight to dark.

"The only viable option is a regional reduction," he added. "Shooting them just moves them around and your shoving your problem onto someone else."

Denny Bowman of Alpena added a similar warning. "They've got eyes like hawks and they are very, very intelligent."

Sault Ste. Marie resident Gene Raymond said the birds have historically been in the Upper Peninsula since at least the 1800s, citing the Shag Lakes of Marquette County as his proof. He also added that he saw his first cormorant in 1971 while fishing Alger County's Au Train Lake.

"I live with these birds and these birds have to be controlled," he said likening them to lampreys with wings.

Jim Shutt, a Pickford resident who operates a charter boat service, offered up a unique solution to the cormorant problem. Shutt advocated releasing raccoons on the individual islands where the cormorants are nesting. Admitting it may not greatly reduce the population, it would be worth it even if it only resulted in 10-15 fewer cormorants.

Other local speakers included John Torsky, Mark Coymer, and Brian Harrison. After outlining the devastation to the fish population and the local economy, Harrison said the "perch capital of Michigan" has now developed a reputation as the "Cormorant Capital of Michigan."

The cormorant population has exploded throughout the Great Lakes since 24 pairs were counted in Wisconsin in the mid-1960s. By 1997, there were 28,000 pairs in Lake Michigan and 8,500 pairs recorded on Lake Huron.

Although many sportsmen, resort owners and others associated with recreational fishing see a direct relationship between declining fish populations and the explosion of the double-crested cormorant, studies have failed to show any occurrences of cormorants depleting sport fish populations.

Cormorants are currently protected under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 and its subsequent amendments. Cormorants are not, however, considered an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to accept written comments regarding the newest proposal to deal with the double-crested cormorant through February 28, 2002. Anyone wishing to express their opinion on this matter may send correspondence to :

Division of Migratory Bird Management

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Room 634

Arlington, VA 22203


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Dec 1, 2001
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One thing in the story my father lives in Pickford mich I bet he knows the guy from there.


May 2, 2001
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They are a nasty stinkin' pest that needs to be shot and left for coyote food. :hammer:
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