JAMM AQUINO / STAR-BULLETIN
Officer David Keawe with the state DLNR put down a dead wedge-tailed shearwater at Kahuku Golf Course yesterday, one of about 90 found dead at the site.
Dog pack blamed for dead shearwater birds at Kahuku
Dozens of shearwaters turn up dead at golf course
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Nearly 90 wedge-tailed shearwater birds were discovered dead yesterday at the Kahuku Golf Course -- the apparent victims of a pack of dogs, experts say.
"That's the worst dog kill that I've heard so far," said David Smith, Oahu Branch manager for the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
A year ago, an estimated 40 shearwater birds were found dead at the same golf course. Joshua Fisher, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Islands Office, determined that the birds found a year ago suffered trauma from puncture wounds caused most likely by dogs.
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Almost 90 wedge-tailed shearwater birds found dead yesterday at Kahuku Golf Course were most likely killed by a pack of dogs, wildlife biologists concluded.
Name: Wedge-tailed shearwaters
Hawaiian name: Ua'u kani (moaning petrel)
Scientific name: Puffinus pacificus
Habitat: Commonly found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the wedge-tailed shearwater also breeds in small colonies on Oahu, Kauai and Maui.
Habits: A single, white egg laid in a ground burrow becomes a youngster that goes to sea with its parents at the end of the February-November breeding season. During that time, the birds are vulnerable to dogs, cats, rats and mongooses.
Both sexes take turns incubating the egg, which takes about seven weeks. After hatching, the chick is brooded for up to six days until able to regulate its own temperature. Then it is left alone in the nest while both parents hunt at sea for food. Fledging occurs after 103 to 115 days, after which the chick is independent of the adult.
Lifespan: Can live up to 29 years; monogamous.
Sources: Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"That's the worst dog kill that I've heard so far," said David Smith, Oahu Branch manager for the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife, referring to the 86 adult birds.
Some officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Division of Forestry and Wildlife and conservation and resources enforcement officers responded to reports of dead shearwaters at three sites at Kahuku Golf Course yesterday. Birds at the golf course seek shelter under large bushes near the coastline.
Joshua Fisher, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Pacific Islands Office who responded to yesterday's attack, said this is the second time shearwater birds were found dead at the golf course. An estimated 40 birds were found dead at the golf course a year ago.
The birds in the first attack suffered trauma from puncture wounds caused most likely by dogs, Fisher said.
Puncture wounds were observed on a number of dead shearwaters yesterday.
Dogs, experts say, typically attack a large number of birds in a single incident by grabbing and shaking the birds around with their mouths and leaving them for dead before heading to another colony.
"They pretty much kill 'em for fun," Smith said. "These kind of birds kick a primal instinct in dogs."
At times, some area residents and golfers said they observe loose or stray dogs roaming on golf course grounds.
"It's almost 100 percent guaranteed that they were dogs," said Smith, who has worked with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife for 20 years. It's currently mating season for shearwater birds.
"It's the worst possible time for a dog to get a colony," Smith said. "They can kill all the breeding adults in the colony."
Officials with the city Department of Enterprise Services, which oversees the city golf courses, said they are waiting to hear from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources on their findings. "This is the first time that this has been brought to our attention," said Director Sidney Quintal.
COURTESY NATURE CONSERVANCY
A wedge-tailed shear- water is shown resting in a dugout nest.
Several islands off Oahu, including Rabbit Island, Goat Island, Chinaman's Hat and the Mokulua Islands, are heavily populated with shearwater birds. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which subjects violators to misdemeanor charges if the birds are captured, killed, shipped or sold.
The dead birds were placed in plastic bags and taken to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge for possible necropsies. Fisher said some live birds were observed in burrows. One live bird that suffered a single puncture wound was to be taken to Sea Life Park.
Kahuku resident Noyita Saravia said she was walking around the golf course yesterday morning when she saw the dead birds scattered across portions of the golf course grounds.
"It was just overwhelming that there were so many," Saravia said. "It's horrible. Everywhere I walked, there was just more and more."
Saravia and a staffer at Kahuku Golf Course reported the sighting to state officials. To report any disturbance to wedge-tailed shearwater bird colonies, the public can call DLNR's enforcement hot line at 643-DLNR or 587-0077.