Hundreds of dead gulls were found Monday after federal agents poisoned more than 2,800 nests at an offshore island to protect a tiny, threatened shorebird.
Many of those birds were found in or near freshwater because the poison induces kidney failure, making the birds thirsty. But federal officials said the carcasses presented no dangers to humans or other animals.
About 100 dead gulls were found on the mainland and another 300 on the northern tip of South Monomoy Island, where the nests were poisoned as part of an avian management plan for the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
Workers were burying the carcasses on the island, while the mainland carcasses were bagged and stored for shipping to a federal research lab in Madison, Wis.
At the same time, U.S. Department of Agriculture workers continued planting poisoned margarine-on-white-bread sandwiches in the nests of great black backed and herring gulls to eliminate any living mates.
“The program is proceeding without any problems,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Diana Weaver said Monday. She added that the poisoning and pickup will continue for the rest of the week.
The wildlife service started the poisoning Saturday because gulls were wiping out the piping plover, a threatened species, by crowding their habitat and eating their chicks.
Animal activists say the program is misguided, considering that people are allowed to walk and vehicles to drive through piping plover habitats at the same time gulls are being killed to protect that habitat.