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Reducing Double-Crested Cormorant Population an Ethically Challenging Necessity

Double-crested cormorants are a fish eating water bird native to Ohio.
Colin Durfee
Creative Commons
Double-crested cormorants are a fish eating water bird native to Ohio.

A bird thriving in Lake Erie is causing challenges for other species. The federal government has a plan to address the problem by eliminating some of the double-crested cormorants.

They are a primarily fish eating water bird native to Ohio.

They nest in denser numbers which can cause damage to vegetation used as habitats for birds such as herons and egrets. Fishermen also take issue with the birds, as they affect Ohio’s aquaculture production.

Mark Shieldcastle is the research director at Black Swamp Bird Observatory. He also worked for the Ohio Division of Wildlife when they began killing cormorants, reducing the population to lessen their impact on other wildlife. He says although they would rather not have to, it is the best option in most cases.

“And it has been working quite well in keeping damage to these very sensitive nesting colonies.”

He says this is best practice to save the vegetation and habitats.


“You know, a choice we’d prefer to not have to do, but there’s no way to do nonlethal attempts on the bird, because anything you try to disturb the birds out there, you disturb all the birds – all the herons and egrets as well.”

Andy Jones with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History agrees this is a necessary practice.

"Managing double-crested cormorants is a necessary scientific management decision if we are to continue to have healthy breeding populations of several species of herons and egrets on the Lake Erie islands. While the science is clear, the ethical aspects are absolutely more complicated."

The U.S Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services is seeking public comments on this practice through Friday.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.