Motorists urged to drive cautiously to avoid killing Hawaii's State bird

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Due to several recent deaths of Hawaii's State bird, the nene, conservationists are urging Big Island motorists to drive with caution.

Since June 2007, five endangered nene or Hawaiian geese have been killed by cars on Saddle Road with the most recent death on August 8.

The road passes between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the island's largest peaks.  Officials say an area of special concern is located between mile markers 29 and 30.

"From now through October, we expect to see more birds in the area as they flock together before moving on to their breeding grounds in Hakalau Forest," said Hakalau Forest NWR biologist Jack Jeffrey.  "This area may have served as a flocking site for many years, but until the recent Saddle Road construction and realignment, was not a problem area for road kills."

Scientists, land managers and concerned citizens are trying to come up with ways to protect the geese.  Some possible long-term solutions include fences and vegetation buffers to hazing methods use to repel the birds from the dangerous roadway.

The Saddle Road and other areas are marked with warning signs indicating the possibility of nene on the roadway.  Motorists who see a warning sign, are urged to keep a look-out for birds in the area, slow down and be prepared to come to a sudden stop or turn to avoid the birds.