Protecting wild birds Savage challenge: Slaughters of xTC migratory birds for economic gain defy law, conservation ethics.

September 19, 1998

HORRIFIC, deliberate slaughter of protected migratory birds is challenging the nation's wildlife laws and its ethics of conservation.

Recently, an Arkansas subdivision builder leveled a woodlands containing hundreds of egret nests and a Texas town bulldozed a large nesting ground of herons and egrets. Hundreds of legally protected birds were wantonly killed.

The most heinous act of destruction occurred on a private island in eastern Lake Ontario, when more than 900 cormorants were systematically exterminated by a shotgun killer. The unknown killer of cormorants is believed to be linked to sport fishing interests that blame the wild birds' catch of game fish for destroying business.

These destructive acts also ignored the work of wildlife experts. In Carrollton, Texas, the white egrets and little blue herons would have migrated within weeks, allowing the land to be legally altered. At the Conway, Ark., site, the same is probably true. Studies by biologists show that cormorants catch very few prime game fish, feeding primarily on other species.

While morally repugnant, these were not "senseless" crimes. In each case, it appears that the perpetrators made a calculated decision to advance their interests at the expense of migratory birds and the laws that protect them. That should be a call for strictest enforcement of the law by federal authorities, before others feel emboldened to destroy protected natural species with impunity.

Pub Date: 9/19/98

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