Recent nene deaths caused by speeding, feeding in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

  • HVNP photo Three nene recently have been killed in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

October marks the start of nene breeding and nesting season in Hawaii, but unfortunately the season is off to a deadly start for native geese in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

In the last two weeks, three nene were fatally struck by vehicles on Chain of Craters Road, despite signs warning motorists to slow down and watch for geese, according to HVNP.

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The latest death occurred Thursday morning. It was a male nene whose mate was killed last week on the same stretch of road near the Mau Loa o Maunaulu trailhead.

“It is tragic that three rare nene are dead because of speeding or inattentive motorists in the park, especially a mated pair at the start of breeding and nesting season. We need everyone to slow down, watch out for wildlife and understand that the park is their habitat,” said HVNP Superintendent Rhonda Loh.

“It is also imperative that people never feed nene. Besides being unhealthy for the birds, feeding wildlife gets them comfortable around humans and vehicles, which all too often has a fatal outcome,” she said.

The park also urges visitors to steer clear of a nene pair that is frequenting the former Jaggar Museum parking lot at the new Uekahuna eruption viewing area.

Park staff have observed nene feeding on piles of rice, crackers and other food left behind in the parking lot and surrounding area. Although the food is removed, to further protect the birds, park management could decide to close the parking lot if the nene continue to congregate near vehicles.

Nene are the largest native land animals in Hawaii and the world’s rarest goose.

They are present in the park and other locations in Hawaii year-round, but the October through May breeding/nesting season is crucial for their survival. It’s also when nene are most vulnerable to being run over by drivers.

The geese are focused on eating, and often forage from dawn to dusk as they get ready to nest. They blend in with their surroundings, and in low-light periods, they are especially hard for motorists to spot.

Nene-crossing signs posted throughout the park call attention to roadside areas frequented by nene. These include sections of Highway 11, Crater Rim Drive, and Chain of Craters Road. Speed humps are installed in problem areas.

Motorists are urged to use extra caution in nene crossing areas, and to obey posted speed limits.

By 1952, only 30 birds remained statewide. HVNP and conservation partners began efforts to recover the species in the 1970s through a captive breeding and reintroduction program. The nene recovery program continues today, and about 165 birds thrive in the park from sea level to around 8,000 feet. Nearly 3,500 nene exist statewide.

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Visit www.nps.gov/havo/learn/nature/nene.htm for more information.

To report nene on the road in the park, call 808-985-6170. Outside the park, call 808-974-4221.

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