The shooting deaths of protected red-footed boobies, like these shown nesting in Kaneohe, are being investigated by federal agencies.

Agencies look into
deaths of isle seabirds

Several federal agencies have opened an investigation into the killing of about 30 red-footed boobies earlier this week in the wildlife management area of the Marine Corps' Ulupau crater in Kaneohe Bay.

Maj. Chris Hughes, Kaneohe Bay spokesman, said the birds were discovered Wednesday afternoon during a routine inspection of the wildlife management area by the base's environmental staff.

All of the birds were apparently shot, Hughes said.

Heading the investigation is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is being helped by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Gene Hester, Fish and Wildlife supervising special agent, said his agency only got the case on Thursday, and could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

The Hawaii seabirds are protected by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act and nest in the 23-acre Ulupau Wildlife Management Area on the Mokapu peninsula.

The crater also is used by the Marines as a training and firing range. It is also the home of the FBI's small-arms firing range.

"It's a busy area," Hughes said.

Marines were in the area this week firing their weapons, Hughes said.

"We are working with several different theories," Hughes said, "and I am not going to speculate on any of them."

Hughes said that with more than 2,500 red-footed boobies nesting in the area, "the programs we have in place have worked well in the past.

"It's been a very effective relationship between the wildlife needs and our training needs."

Unlike other boobies, which lay eggs on the ground, the red-footed booby will make a crudely built nest of sticks in shrubs or trees. Boobies are cousins of pelicans.


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