A rare nēnē goose, one 21 years old and which has been somewhat of a prolific breeder, has been run over and killed at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The goose, known by park biologists as Green DU, was hit on Chain of Craters Road near Pauahi last Tuesday. Her mate of 13 years was not hit and remains in the general area.
The incident prompted park officials to urge visitors to slow down as they drive through the park and stay alert for the endemic and federally endangered nēnē.
Through the years Green DU has successfully raised 24 goslings. She was hatched in captivity in the park in December 1991 and was released in March 1992. Green DU was what wildlife biologists call a rare “double-clutch” breeder, who once reared two goslings to fledglings, then re-nested and raised an additional four goslings in a single breeding season, a park release noted.
“It is a shame that a nēnē with such a long and productive life had to die so tragically,” said Dr. Rhonda Loh, the park’s chief of resource management.
Nēnē is the Hawai‘i state bird. About 200 nēnē thrive within Hawai‘i Volcanoes, and there are an estimated 2,000 birds statewide.
It’s not unusual to encounter nēnē in the park during their nesting season, which runs from October through March, and they are frequently spotted along roadsides throughout the year. But geese can be anywhere, from sea level to the slopes of Mauna Loa.
Nēnē Crossing signs are posted along park roadsides in places nēnē frequent most, and information on the Hawai‘i’s largest native land animal can be found in the park’s visitor centers.
Nēnē are quite active in the late evening and early morning, and their grayish coloring makes them difficult to see during those hours. Park officials also caution visitors not to feed the geese because birds seeking handouts fall prey to oncoming vehicles. The equation is simple, sad, and all too often true: a fed nēnē equals a dead nēnē.