Efforts to harass double-crested cormorants away from a nesting site in the Portage Lakes have failed.
That assessment was offered Monday by James Seikel, manager of Portage Lakes State Park.
Reports indicate the state’s noise-making efforts used at West Reservoir in Coventry Township had “little, if any, impact” on the fish-eating birds, he said.
Those efforts, in late March and early April, were stopped after many of the blackish birds returned to the nesting island in the reservoir south of State Mill Road and laid eggs, Seikel said.
It appears the number of cormorants nesting on the island is close to the number found there in previous years, he said.
“We were hoping to do something positive, but I’m not sure that we had a positive impact in this case,” Seikel said.
The number is “barely down at all,” he said. “Nature has taken its course, despite our efforts.”
Neighbor Doug Coutts said he was disappointed by the results.
“We were hoping to get some relief by getting the birds to nest elsewhere. But I agree with that assessment. ... It didn’t work.”
Seikel said he intends to continue investigating harassment in future years and other steps that might be taken to control the cormorants. That could include using lasers to scare the birds or cutting down the trees where the birds nest.
Future options would require working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because the cormorants are federally protected birds, Seikel noted.
State personnel fired pyrotechnics and nonlethal blanks from a starters’ pistol from 150 feet away from shore three or four times a day in an effort to get the birds to abandon the West Reservoir island where the species has nested since 2005.
About 70 pairs of cormorants have been nesting in the 20 large trees on the island.
The problem: The cormorants’ abundant droppings are highly acidic and kill off other vegetation. The waste also can foul the lake waters.
Seikel said neighbors have reported cormorants — long-necked, goose-sized creatures — also have been nesting on East Reservoir and elsewhere in the Portage Lakes.
In Ohio, cormorants nest on three Lake Erie islands and three inland sites.
Since 2006, the state has used sharpshooters to control and reduce the cormorant population on three islands: Green Island, owned by the state; West Sister Island, part of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge; and Turning Point Island, a man-made island in Sandusky harbor.
About 6,500 of the birds were shot in 2012.
Younger cormorants tend to roost in large numbers at other lakes, including Mogadore Reservoir in Portage County and Berlin Reservoir at the Portage-Stark-Mahoning county line, but they don’t nest until older.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.