Two female nene were killed recently by speeding motorists on Crater Road, according to Haleakala National Park officials.
One fatality occurred outside the park near mile marker 9 on Tuesday, Nov. 21; the other occurred at the Hosmer Grove intersection inside the park in the downslope direction, which was reported on Friday, Nov. 15.
"This is a truly worrisome start to the nene breeding season," said park superintendent Natalie Gates. "We didn't just lose two birds; we lost several potential generations of an endangered species. Driving slowly along the entire length of Crater Road is the only truly controllable thing humans can do, on a daily basis, to help this species."
"The road bisects the nene's breeding habitat," said park wildlife biologist Cathleen Bailey. "Nene literally cross roads to 'get to the other side.'"
In addition, nene often seek food in the short grass along road shoulders or drink the water run-off that accumulates along roads. The park is working to make roadsides less attractive to nene by removing short grass and filling in holes. The birds are especially active during breeding season and more likely to be seen by visitors.
"Many motorists are not used to the steepness of the road and how fast a car can suddenly pick up speed," said Polly Angelakis, chief of interpretation. "Visitors should use low gear when driving downhill to hold back their vehicles and save wear and tear on their brakes. Using low gear will make their own journey safer and help save this bird and other wildlife."
"Nene have been around for thousands of years; cars have only been here for 100. The birds just aren’t used to cars," said Angelakis. "Please slow down and drive carefully, especially in low light conditions."
Traffic cones, caution signs, and other traffic calming devices have been placed in the park to remind drivers to slow down. Posters, with guidance in 6 languages, are in the two summit visitor centers and at the Summit Entrance Station. The park is working with the visitor industry to get the word out as well.
The nene is endangered due to habitat loss and non-native predators, such as cats and mongoose, that eat eggs and prey on birds. There are less than 300 nene left in the park.