Cormorant concerns top Lake Board agenda
Written by Houghton Lake Resorter   
Thursday, 20 January 2005 09:48
The double crested cormorant as a threat to the Great Lakes fishery and a potential problem in the Roscommon County area was the subject during most of a two and a half hour long meeting of the Houghton Lake Improvement Board at Denton Township Hall Tuesday evening.

Roscommon County resident Larry Meier gave a presentation to the board detailing problems in the Les Cheneaux Islands in the northern end of Lake Huron, where a large influx of nesting cormorants is suspected to have decimated the population of yellow perch.

Meier said that an adult cormorant eats between a pound and a pound and a half of live fish per day, and that the rookeries in the Les Cheneauxs have had up to 16,000 birds roosting in the summer. He said that while cormorant populations have shown a yearly increase of 6% nationally, their growth in the flyway that includes the Great Lakes has a growth rate of 29%.

He said that the number of cormorants seen in Roscommon County has been growing, although no nesting activity has been observed. He said that residents of Lake James have counted up to 60 of the birds roosting at the lake last summer.

He also noted reports of larger numbers roosting in the Houghton Lake Flats in the area occupied by the blue heron rookery. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Technician Doug Pavlovich, who said he works on or near the Flats almost every day, said on one occasion in 2003 he counted 60 birds roosting in the rookery, but that for the past couple of years, the largest group of cormorants he?s seen at a time was around 12.

Meier recommended a control program including obtaining a federal deprivation order which would allow the removal of cormorants if they were shown to be causing a problem in the local fishery. He said that since Lake James is a private lake, its association could apply for a deprivation permit to head off a potential problem, noting that members of the Houghton Lake Sportsman?s Club could be ?deputized? to cull the population.

He also suggested the board and audience members write to Congressman Dave Camp to urge him to seek funding to continue research and control programs that are now underway through a joint project undertaken by the federal USDA Wildlife Services and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Pete Butchko, state director of USDA Wildlife Services, also made a presentation to the board, detailing pilot projects in the Les Cheneaux Islands and at Drummond Island that have shown some success in decreasing the growth in the cormorant population and in curtailing the activity of the birds in certain areas.

Butchko said that in the Les Cheneauxs, a program that called for the culling of 15% of the nesting adults and coating eggs with vegetable oil was used this summer. He said that 910 birds were killed and that out of 3,200 nests a total of 41 eggs hatched.

At Drummond Island, a program that included the use of pyrotechnics, boat chasing and limited lethal shooting kept flocks of cormorants from coming after a perch run at the mouth of Potagannissing Bay which saved an estimated 9,556 pounds of perch.

Butchko said that the Roscommon County area is not high on the list for cormorant control efforts in 2005. He also said the area is probably not a likely spot for the birds to nest, as they prefer uninhabited islands for that purpose.

?We?re just getting started in understanding cormorants in Michigan,? said Butchko.

Information on the double crested cormorant on the USDA website includes that the first nesting on the Great Lakes by the bird, which is a native, federally protected species, was recorded in 1913. The population was decimated by the use of the insecticide DDT, but is now resurging.

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