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Know the West

Snowy plover predators become prey



Many creatures that forage along the sand dunes of the Oregon Coast consider the snowy plover's cream-colored eggs a savory delicacy, and all those stolen eggs add up. Since 1993, the shy shorebird has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Despite federal and state wildlife agencies' recovery efforts, such as fencing off entire sections of public beaches to protect nesting grounds and placing wire cages around plover nests, bird numbers have dwindled to only 111.

Now the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say it's time for a more drastic measure: predator control.

In late March, an arm of the Department of Agriculture will poison and kill creatures that steal plover eggs, including crows, ravens and gulls.

"It's time to put a few more tools in our tool bag," says Kerrie Palermo, a BLM wildlife biologist.

But predator control doesn't usually work, says Brooks Fahy, head of the Predator Defense Institute in Eugene. Federal agencies are using predators as a scapegoat, he says, in order to avoid addressing more politically charged threats to the endangered bird.

"It's much more politically acceptable to launch these lethal predator control programs than it is to address ATV destruction, oil spills, or people who hike in this habitat and disturb these animals during nesting," says Fahy.

The predator control program will run for the next five years.