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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 29, 2007

Dogs kill 4 Kauai albatross chicks

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Laysan albatross chicks were found slaughtered by dogs at a nesting site east of Larsen's Beach. The birds had been within a week of being old enough to leave their nests for a life out at sea.

Brenda Zaun photo

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KILAUEA, Kaua'i Federal wildlife officials said dogs killed four Laysan albatross chicks Tuesday on property east of Larsen's Beach, not far from where two others were killed earlier this year.

The chicks were estimated to be within a week of fledging heading out to sea, where they would remain for years.

Fourteen chicks and two albatross adults were killed at another north Kaua'i location last year, when trespassers cut a fence built to protect the birds, and dogs got through.

"It is tragic that this happens every year. ... We need the help of dog owners to please be responsible for their pets and do not let them roam," said Brenda Zaun, a wildlife biologist with the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Zaun said nesting albatrosses produced 129 chicks this year, a record. One of them died of starvation, probably because one of its parents was lost and could not participate in feeding it, she said.

Laysan albatrosses are the biggest birds on Kaua'i, with wingspans near 6 feet. They are known to have inhabited the islands before humans arrived, but were gone before the first Europeans arrived. They began appearing on Kaua'i again in the late 1970s.

Dog attacks have been one of their main problems, both on the bluffs of north Kaua'i and in past years at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, where they are also found.

While feral animals, including dogs and pigs, can attack the birds, family pets can also be responsible, Zaun said. She urged residents to keep their dogs on leashes near nesting grounds.

"It is horrible to check on a colony and find all the birds dead or dying," Zaun said.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.