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Wildlife Damage Management

Double-crested cormorant-photo by Don Getty

Double-Crested Cormorants
(Phalacrocorax auritus)

Double-crested cormorants were a rare sight in Alabama only a few decades ago. The use of DDT in pesticides was wreaking havoc among populations of many fish eating birds in the 1960’s. During that time, double-crested cormorant numbers fell to dangerously low numbers, but are now recovering since the ban on DDT was imposed. Cormorants in Alabama mostly hail from the Great Lakes and come to the inland waters and coastal areas of the southeast to nest from October through April. Today, Alabama hosts over 700 breeding pairs every year.

The recovery of cormorants has been a mixed blessing for some. These large birds nest in large numbers and can cause a lot of damage to the area where they establish their rookeries. At Lake Guntersville, cormorants nest in such large numbers that their acidic guano has destroyed the vegetation along the shoreline. Not only is the site a smelly mess, the loss of trees, shrubs and grasses can lead to serious erosion and therefore water quality issues. A cormorant eats about a pound of fish per day and can pose economic problems for aquaculture facilities.

Cormorants are a protected species, but the state of Alabama has granted permission to APHIS Wildlife Services Offices and state game officers to take cormorants as needed to control damage. Commercial aquaculture facilities are also permitted by law to take cormorants as required to protect their business interests. Private citizens that feel lethal control is appropriate on their property must contact the Wildlife Services Office within APHIS to request a permit. Scare devices may be effective in reducing the population that settles in a particular area, but the results are temporary. Take a look at the document linked under "more info" for ideas on damage control.

More Info
(From Cornell University Cooperative Extension)

Aquaculture Damage Video