State wildlife officials are urging motorists to slow down and drive with aloha after a bonded nene pair — a male and female — were struck and killed Tuesday near Kahului Airport on Maui.
A former employee of the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife found the dead nene, or Hawaiian geese, on Aalele Street. The female was already dead, while the male died a short time later.
Officials say that the male may have been struck while trying to stay near his partner, and that the birds commonly do this after a mate or goslings have been injured.
Stephanie Franklin, DOFAW biologist on Maui, estimates there are about 15 nene in the core area of Kahului that move regularly between Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanaha Beach Park, and nearby grassy areas.
“We’re so lucky to be able to see nene and three other endangered waterbirds species, right downtown,” said Franklin, adding that this privilege means having the added responsibility of sharing space with the endemic wildlife of Hawaii.
Last month, three nene were struck and killed by cars on Chain of Craters Road at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
The three, which also included another nene pair, were fatally struck within the span of two weeks.
The National Park Service 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.
Nene nesting season coincides with the holiday travel and shopping season, officials said, so more people are likely to encounter them while out and about. They prefer grassy areas, and are thus drawn to parks and golf courses.
People can also protect nene by keeping their dogs leashed at beach parks and near golf courses, and refraining from feeding them.
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. They are still protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Nene were reintroduced to Maui within Haleakala National Park in the late 196os, according to DOFAW, and approximately 500 today now occupy habitats including wetlands and grassy areas at all elevations of the Valley isle.
To report injured nene on Maui, call 808-984-8100 or at Haleakala National Park, call 808-985-6170.