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Articles:

Cormorants: The Agricultural Subsidy

Published 01/25/11
By Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

Double-breasted cormorant
(Painting by Barry Kent MacKay)

Whether we are talking about white-tailed deer, Canada geese, snow geese, double-crested cormorants, blackbirds, raccoons, crows, coyotes or any other native species of wildlife accused of being “too” common, one of the favorite reasons wildlife managers like to refer to, in order to explain why there has been an unprecedented increase in population size, is often called the “agricultural subsidy.”

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Cormorants: The Missing Predator Argument

Published 01/25/11
By Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

(Photo by Jeff Jones)

Not that it should matter all that much whether cormorants have increased or, as the evidence indicates, decreased since earlier times. Virtually no species of North American bird exists at the same number as it did at some point when there was, presumably, the “right” number. Apart from those who are now extinct, all exist at greater or lesser numbers than at some pre-colonial point in time, their numbers reflecting the ever-changing ability of the environment to support them.

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Cormorants: Limiting Factors

Published 01/25/11
By Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

Double-breasted cormorant
(Painting by Barry Kent MacKay)

Cormorants are dependent on accessible fish biomass, and there’s no doubt that it has increased in some places at the local level. A field that once grew cotton and now grows fish obviously provides more accessible food for cormorants, and as indicated above, it seems quite possible to think that while the Great Lakes — the largest body of fresh water on the continent — may have fewer fish overall than the vast numbers who met the first European colonists (indeed, several of those species that were once common now endangered or extinct), the arrival of alewives and round gobies may have enhanced the ability of the lower Great Lakes to feed cormorants over what existed centuries earlier.

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Cormorants: Semi-Science and Wildlife Management

Published 01/25/11
By Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

(Photo by Jeff Jones)

Wildlife management responds to political direction that, in turn, responds to public demand. The public and the politicians they influence cannot be expected to know, or care, about the complexities inherent to the natural world. Everything must be simplified before it can be explained to the public. Fish are in decline, cormorants eat fish, ergo, cormorants are responsible for the decline in fish. This scenario is, generally, refuted by the scientific evidence, and cormorant detractors, be they the general public or wildlife managers, can act as though this evidence does not exist (although strides are being made, especially in Canada).

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Cormorants: So ... What Do Real Scientists Say?

Published 01/25/11
By Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

Double-breasted cormorant
(Painting by Barry Kent MacKay)

For the past 200 years there have been numerous studies of double-crested and other species of cormorants, both in North American and abroad, a large number of them designed to examine the “impact” cormorants have on various fish species. In response to FEIS, the American Ornithologists Union (AOU) struck a panel of ornithologists, not exclusive of wildlife management interests but decidedly academic, to review the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s management plan of 2003. They did a massive literature review and stated:

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Cormorants: Footnotes

Published 01/25/11

Double-breasted cormorant
(Painting by Barry Kent MacKay)

1 Another alien fish species who had a profound effect on the Great Lakes is the sea lamprey. This eel-like fish entered the Great Lakes sometime around 1830, through canals that allowed it to move inland from the Atlantic Ocean, but is probably not native. It is a jawless, parasitic fish who attaches a sucker-like mouth to the sides of fish, draining them of bodily fluids, thus slowly killing them. It is believed to have taken a particular toll on the native lake trout.

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The Brown Bear in Canada

Published 10/15/10
By Barry Kent MacKay, senior program associate

The brown bear is almost always called the “grizzly” bear in both Canada and the United States, although one race, found on Kodiak and nearby islands in Alaska, often is popularly known as the “Kodiak bear.”

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Fur Council of Canada Misinformation (cont.)

Question 1: 'What do you mean by saying fur is green?'

Published 10/15/10

The answer begins, "We want people to know that fur is an excellent choice if you care about nature — because fur is a natural, renewable resource.”

Those animals who die in traps are not able to renew themselves, but the concept that furs are “renewable” comes from the idea that animals produce more young than are mathematically necessary to maintain their population. Therefore, the theory goes, as long as trapping stays within the “surplus” number it is “renewable.” That is, the population size will stay stable, with the individuals not trapped producing enough young to replace those who are.

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