Fewer double-crested cormorants are expected to migrate north to fisheries in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River this spring, as hunters in South Carolina will be given liberty to kill the birds with firearms on the Santee Cooper lakes in February and March.
Launched by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the unprecedented program is expected to enroll about 300 volunteers who will be using rangefinders for hunting cormorants with shotguns over the two-month season. The effort, which has been highly praised by anglers, could reduce the population of cormorants that migrate south during the winter months by a few thousand, according to Derrell A. Shipes, chief of statewide wildlife projects for the agency.
Although cormorants are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty, the agency acquired a depredation order from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to approve the program by proving the bird population has harmed fisheries on the 161,000-acre lake system. The system includes Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, which are home to numerous fishing tournaments.
“The migratory population of cormorants has increased greatly, but our population of birds that nest here has not increased,” Mr. Shipes said. “The growth in this population is due to migratory birds, and these birds are nesting and being produced in New York state, Canada and across the Northeast.
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