Two of three baby Nene photographed grazing in lush grass alongside the Hanalei River last month were killed by cars as they attempted to cross a highway. Video shot by DLNR and distributed to media across the state on Dec. 28, 2016, showed a family of Nene; mother, father and their three goslings resting and eating on the stream’s bank underneath the Hanalei Bridge. The deaths of the two goslings happened last week.
Jean Olbert, a biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, specializes in protection of Nene on Kaua‘i. She said, “Many of these deaths are preventable if drivers would simply heed warning signs, slow down, and exercise caution in areas where Nene families commonly breed, nest, and raise their young.”
Olbert and other state biologists continue to look for novel ways to get the word out about Nene road strikes. Our first goal is to increase awareness to visitors on the island who may be less familiar with the native wildlife. Road strikes happen on other islands, but have been particularly bad on Kauai recently with eleven birds struck and killed by vehicles since last December. More than 50 birds have been killed in this manner in the past two years. On Kaua‘i, the worst locations for Nene deaths are around the Hanalei Bridge, on Kilauea Road near the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, and on the west side of the island.
The greatest number of road deaths occur between December and April during the peak breeding and molting season. During this time both adults and goslings can’t fly and especially vulnerable to passing cars and trucks. Nene like to forage for food along highway edges and ditches that are regularly mowed. Runoff from paved surfaces helps grow especially desirable grass in these areas. DLNR is opening discussions with the Dept. of Transportation and Kaua‘i County to explore reducing and/or changing roadside vegetation that isn’t as attractive to Nene.
Olbert said most birds are killed on roads in the early morning and evening hours. “There’s a Nene crossing warning sign within 25 feet of where video and photographs of the family were taken. We really implore all drivers on Kaua‘i to watch for the signs, the Nene, and drive safely.”