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Officials urge caution after 3 nēnē recently killed by motorists at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

nene goose
Nēnē gosling and parents at Pu‘u Pua‘i in February 2017.

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

The latest death occurred Thursday — a male goose 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 nēnē 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 Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh.

dead nene
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Recent nēnē deaths are caused by speeding cars and feeding the birds.

Loh also says to avoid feeding the nēnē birds.

"Feeding wildlife gets them comfortable around humans and vehicles, which all too often has a fatal outcome."

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

Park staff have observed nēnē 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 nēne continue to congregate near vehicles.

Nēnē are the largest native land animals in Hawaiʻi and the world’s rarest goose. They are present in the park and other locations in Hawaiʻi year-round, but the October through May breeding/nesting season is crucial for their survival.

It’s also when nēnē 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.

By 1952, only 30 birds remained statewide.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and conservation partners began efforts to recover the species in the 1970s through a captive breeding and reintroduction program.

The Nēnē Recovery Program continues today, and around 165 birds thrive in the park from sea level to around 8,000 feet. Nearly 3,500 nēnē live statewide.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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