According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Breeding Bird Atlas, populations of double-crested cormorants were reduced across North America in the early 1900s, but their numbers have rebounded “phenomenally” since 1970 thanks to a decline in chemical contamination and human hunting, as well as increased access to food and suitable habitat. In Texas, cormorant populations are concentrated in the eastern two-thirds of the state and peak between October and March with numbers as high as 90,000.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on proposed management strategies of the double-crested cormorant, an aquatic bird common to Lake Texoma, but problematic to fish hatcheries across the country.
“The strong return of double crested cormorants is a significant conservation success,” said former USFWS Director Dale Hall in an emailed statement. “But in the absence of natural predators, cormorants are inflicting substantial depredation on both private and public aquatic resources. This effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service is necessary and appropriate to maintain a healthy ecosystem.”
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley said cormorants can be found feeding and flying around Lake Texoma throughout the year, but they haven’t created any problems for the refuge specifically. Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery Manager Kerry Graves said the facility is fortunate as it hasn’t encountered any major issues with the species for years, but other hatcheries haven’t been so lucky.
“We typically just harass them until they go on, but I know there’s a federal hatchery down in Burnet, Texas — and others elsewhere — that just have horrible problems with cormorants,” Graves said. “They realize that these fish are really concentrated in these hatchery ponds. That’s the attraction.”
The USFWS will accept input from the public, governmental agencies, tribes, the scientific community, industry or any other interested parties. Written comments can be made online at by visiting http://www.regulations.gov. and following the submission instructions for Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0103. Comments can also be mailed to the following address:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS
JAO/1N, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041
Comments will not be accepted through email or fax. All submissions must be made by March 9. The USFWS will post all public commentary on http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided by the submitting party.
For more information about cormorants and the rule-making process, visit https://www.fws.gov/birds and search “cormorant management.”
Drew Smith is a reporter for the Bryan County News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.