Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Week of January 26, 2009

Updated 1/30

Bird culling fallout alarms central NJ community

By VICTOR EPSTEIN, Associated Press Writer

FRANKLIN, N.J. - The black carcasses of dead starlings still pepper the snowy roads and lawns of central New Jersey's rural Griggstown community three days after federal officials used a pesticide to kill as many as 5,000 starlings. Many residents were still getting over their shock Monday from the sudden spate of deaths. Some were unaware that the deaths resulted from an intentional culling and that the pesticide used was harmless to people and pets.

"It was raining birds," said Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine. "It got people a little anxious."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture called local police last week and the Somerset County Health Department to warn them that a culling program was under way, but there was no notice that dead birds could fall from the sky, Levine said.

"A lot of us are concerned because it's so odd," said Chris Jiamboi, 49, as his vehicle idled along a stretch of road in Griggstown marked with the flattened remains of dead starlings. "There were a lot of them dead in the roads and no one drives fast enough around here to kill a bird. Then they started showing up dead in people's backyards."

Carol Bannerman, a USDA spokeswoman, said a bird-specific pesticide called DRC-1339 was used to kill the starlings. It is harmless to people and other animals, she said.

Bannerman said the starlings had to be killed because they were plaguing an area farm, where they were eating feed meant for cattle and chickens and defecating in feeding bowls.

Federal employees dispensed the pesticide on Friday. Birds that ingest it usually die within three days, Bannerman said, so the die-off should have run its course by Monday.

The DRC-1339 pesticide is commonly used to protect farms and feedlot operations from European starlings, which are considered an invasive species by the USDA. One hundred starlings brought to the U.S. in 1890 have grown into the nation's most numerous bird species, Bannerman said. Link


Feds promise better notice about bird kills

BY BRIAN T. MURRAY, Star-Ledger Staff

Federal authorities who killed hundreds of starlings that dropped from Somerset County skies last weekend promised New Jersey representatives yesterday they will better notify local officials of future "treatments" of nuisance birds.

The promise from the Wildlife Services branch of the United States Agriculture Department was made in a letter to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) following the commotion caused last week when the USDA launched an effort to kill 3,000 to 5,000 European starlings that were plaguing a Mercer County farmer.

Notices of the eradication failed to reach residents of surrounding communities, and people in the nearby Griggstown section of Franklin Township in Somerset County were alarmed to find the birds falling dead onto their cars, porches and snow-covered lawns. Link


New York State park visitors to fight Asian longhorn beetle

By Brian Nearing, Staff writer, TimesUnion.com

ALBANY — The state will check its campgrounds next month to hunt for an invasive tree-eating Asian beetle that may have hitched a ride from an outbreak now raging in Massachusetts.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is pulling campground reservations made during the last four years by residents near Worcester, Mass., to learn which campgrounds were visited by people who unknowingly could have brought in firewood infested with Asian longhorn beetles.

"We expect to start a survey of our campgrounds in February to look for signs of the beetle," said Pam Otis, a parks analyst who spoke Thursday at the New York Invasive Species Council.

Worcester is fighting a massive beetle infestation since the insects were first discovered in August. A 64-square mile area has been quarantined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and officials this month started cutting down thousands of infested trees.

In New York, temporary emergency rules that ban the movement of untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source have been in place since June 2008. The state is moving to make such rules permanent.

Maple syrup producers have warned that the state's syrup industry could be devastated if the beetles get into sugar maple trees.

"What the New York park system is doing is a very good exercise to help us uncover any satellite beetle populations that may exist," said Suzanne Bond, a spokeswoman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "This work is critically important to help us identify outbreaks sooner, rather than later." Link


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