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How to protect the endemic nēnē from road accidents

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Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources
A sign warning motorists to remain cautious of nēnē on the road stands on Maui. Nēnē explore new areas for food both day and night during their nesting season in the winter, which may unknowingly lead them onto busy roads.

Another female nēnē was struck and killed by a car on Maui this week, raising concern for the endemic bird that currently only has a population of about 3,000.

This time, the accident occurred on Haleakalā Highway near the Dairy Road and Keolani Place junction in Kahului.

The state is now warning that human-caused fatality of nēnē can be avoided with a little effort.

Conservation efforts helped nēnē geese narrowly avoid extinction over the past decade. About 50 years ago, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said there were less than 30 geese in the wild.

Nēnē explore new areas for food both day and night during their nesting season in the winter, which may unknowingly lead them onto busy roads.

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Department of Land and Natural Resources
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Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources
Nēnē are seen on the road at Mākeana Golf and Beach Club, captured by the state's land department. Nēnē are endemic and currently endangered species, which commonly face danger from automobiles when crossing busy roads.

DLNR said that if you see a nēnē on the road, slow down. Bright yellow signs can be seen on roadways where they commonly populate, but one can also spot a nēnē by its unique look and demeanor.

The nēnē is about 25 inches long and has a noticeable black head with a tan cheek patch. The National Park Service reported that reintroduced populations of the bird are currently on the islands of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i and most recently on O‘ahu.

These geese can't fly straight up to avoid cars, so DLNR advises motorists to remain vigilant for any signs of movement.

Feeding nēnē is illegal under state law. Officials say that making food available can cause the birds to lose their natural fear of people — putting them in potentially dangerous situations near busy areas. The food can also make the herbivores sick.

If you accidentally injure a bird, DLNR said to report it. The Division of Conservation and Resources can be reached at (808) 643-DLNR or report it via the DLNRTip app.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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