KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An endangered seabird found only in the Hawaiian Islands is falling prey to feral cats.
Researchers found the bodies of six endangered Hawaiian Petrel last week at the nature reserve on Kauai. The birds were each dragged from their underground breeding burrows by cats. Some were partially eaten.
In all, wildlife officials say 48 endangered birds have been found dead in their breeding colony over the past two years.
"Unfortunately these incidents continue to happen with regularity on Kauai," said Dr André Raine, Project Coordinator for the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project. "Feral cats are found all over our islands, even in the most remote and inaccessible regions. They are a significant threat to not only native seabirds, but a wide range of other endangered bird species."
Sometimes a single cat can kill several birds in a day, and the Hawaiian Petrel population is declining dramatically.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources is working to protect the species with seabird management projects, including fences meant to keep the predators out. But, they say it's not enough.
"The fact that we have cats slipping through highlights how dire the feral cat issue is on Kauai," said Sheri Mann, the Kauai Branch Chief for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. "Control efforts solely in wilderness areas are not enough to fully deal with this problem. It will take a concerted effort by the island community as a whole to protect native species."
The DLNR is urging responsible pet ownership to help keep the booming cat population under control so the native wildlife can thrive.