The National Park Service is urging drivers at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park to slow down after a third nene was struck and killed by a car Thursday morning, leaving a mangled carcass behind.
This male nene, or Hawaiian goose, was the mate of the female killed just last week on the same stretch of Chain of Craters Road near the Mau Loa o Maunaulu trailhead.
He was the third to be fatally struck by a car on Chain of Craters Road in just the past two weeks.
“It is tragic that three rare nene are dead because of speeding or inattentive motorists in the park, especially a mated pair at the start of breeding and nesting season,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh in a news release. “We need everyone to slow down, watch out for wildlife and understand that the park is their habitat.”
NPS said October marks the start of nene breeding and nesting season in Hawaii, and there are nene crossing signs warning motorists to slow down and watch out for the native geese throughout the park, including sections of Highway 11, Crater Rim Drive, and Chain of Craters Road.
NPS also urges visitors to steer clear of a nene pair frequenting the former Jaggar Museum parking lot at the new Uekahuna eruption viewing area.
“It is also imperative that people never feed nene,” said Loh. “Besides being unhealthy for the birds, feeding wildlife gets them comfortable around humans and vehicles, which all too often has a fatal outcome.”
Park staff have observed the nene feeding on piles of rice, crackers and other food left behind in the parking lot and surrounding area. The food is removed, but if the situation continues, NPS said park management may close the parking lot to keep the nene from congregating near cars.
Nene, which are only found in Hawaii, are the largest native land animals in the state and the world’s rarest goose — with specially adapted feet that allow them to walk across rough lava plains.
They are also Hawaii’s official state bird.
Once on the brink of extinction, the nene population made a comeback after six decades of conservation efforts, and were downlisted from an endangered species to a threatened species in December 2019.
The Nene Recovery Program continues today, according to NPS, and around 165 birds thrive from sea level to around 8,000 feet at Hawaiˆi Volcanoes National Park. Nearly 3,500 nene, meanwhile, exist statewide.
Despite this downlisting, many environmentalists are still concerned about the welfare of the nene, and said they are still in critical need of protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The nene are most vulnerable to being hit or run over at the park during their breeding and nesting season from October through May, NPS said, when they are focused on foraging and eating from dawn to dusk. In addition, they blend in well with their surroundings, and can be difficult for motorists to see during low-light periods.
To report nene on the road in the park, call 808-985-6170. Outside of the park, call 808-974-4221.
Visit nps.gov to learn more about the rare goose.