Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is one few remaining places in the archipelago where visitors can spot the destination’s endangered nene, an endemic goose species and the state bird.
But officials at the attraction are asking motorists to drive with added care over the next several weeks as the nene breeding and nesting season is set to begin, and the birds will be particularly vulnerable as they increase their feeding habits, foraging often from dawn to dusk and masterfully blending in with their surroundings, making them particularly difficult for drivers to spot during low-light periods.
“One of the most important things people can do is give nene space,” Kathleen Misajon, the Nene Recovery Program manager at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said in statement. “This means not approaching them and never feeding them. Nene are easily habituated to food hand-outs from people and vehicles, and these birds often fall victim to vehicle strikes.”
The nene’s numbers dwindled to just 30 birds across the Hawaiian Islands in 1952, but conservation efforts at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, begun in the 1970s, have bolstered totals in the park to more than 250 geese today. Officials estimate that there are now 2,500 nene statewide. But visitors have been responsible for nene deaths at the Big Island attraction in recent years, running over the endangered birds by accident in their rental vehicles.
“While we have had success protecting Nene and maintaining the population in the park, it is so important that humans keep a respectful distance from the geese, especially during this sensitive time,” Misajon said. “We advise visitors to keep at least 60 feet away from nene, any time of year.”
For more information about the nene and other endangered species at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, click here.