Idaho F&G plan to kill pelicans hits obstacles

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubs the plan an “eradication program”.

American White Pelican © Ken Cole
American White Pelican © Ken Cole

The plan to kill pelicans by shooting or covering their eggs with oil to protect Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Blackfoot Reservoir has been rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to the requirements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Idaho F&G plan to kill pelicans hits obstacles. Associated Press. By John Miller. This is a much longer story than the one originally posted. 7/2/2009

We wrote about this story earlier here:
Rare pelicans to be “managed” (killed) in Idaho






  1. mikarooni Avatar

    Idaho, what a great state …for something.

  2. kt Avatar

    This has some parallels to IDFG’s wolf killing mania. IDFG under cowboy Butch Otter – Where IDFG has to kowtow to the ranchers and their “Sportsmen” Front that promote killing wolves because they might eat one of “their” elk, and the pathetic bait fishermen who want the pelicans annihilated because the birds might eat one of “their” (often hatchery trout?) fish.

  3. kt Avatar

    Oh .. and I might add – The fossil record shows pelicans have been around for 40 million years – but the Id-y-ho Fish and Game C’boys want a shot at wiping them out fer good.

    Yee haw! Oil them thar eggs … Squirt the Oil Spray Rig nozzle there — Wildllfe Services killers. Mebbe mix in some of that thar 2.4-DDT while yer at it. Doin’ the Lord’s work over there right next to Utah …

    After all, the pelican bellican business was long ago immortalized in limerick. They MUST be serious competitors with we humans fer sure. Let’s show ’em who’s boss …

  4. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The IDFG seems to have come full circle. I had a summer job working at the Mackay Fish Hatchery way back in 1957, when I was in high school. One of my duties was to use the F&G supplied .22 rifle to shoot any Kingfisher or Great Blue Heron that dared to steal a trout from the hatchery raceways. Eventually, a more enlightened IDFG covered the raceways of most hatcheries with nets and stopped requiring the hatchery workers to shoot the fish eating birds. However, starting with the Batt administation and accelerating through the Kempthorne and Otter years, the IDFG has spiraled steadily downward to its current predator killing low.

  5. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Larry, I think in general politicians out west seem to have become much more unenlightened than in the past.

  6. kt Avatar


    Did they have you shooting dippers, too? I can imagine that is next here.

    Water ouzel eradication.

    Ker-blamm! Wildlife Service’ss’ll be out bravin’ the current in hip waders rippin’ up those lovely domed moss nests on rock ledges and under bridges, too … Stalkin’ the wilely moss nests with dipper eggs.

  7. Jason Avatar

    Got to love Idaho and the people in charge. It really is in such a sad state. The greatest treasure of Idaho is it’s public lands yet the state is doing everything possible to run them into the ground. Even though I live in Portland now, I’ll be headed out on a four day trip to the Seven Devils in a week. Oregon has beauty, but it’s just not as wild as Idaho (and there are too many people).

    Is there hope for the state and it’s resources?

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Kt, maybe they will start popping bald eagles and ospreys. Or encouraging duck hunters to shoot mergansers.

  9. kt Avatar

    ProWolf: I think your premonition of the IDFG merganser predation “mitigation” (or is that murder?) might be all too prescient. Guess it depends on Which Side Are You On Boys? Birds or blind worm dunkin’ greed?

    I kinda think the Greedhead Pelican Egg Oilers and Bird Blasters would be the equivalent of Scabs …

  10. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    That summer back in 1957, when I worked at the Mackay Fish Hatchery was the last time that raw meat was ground up to feed the fish. Since that time, all of the fish raised in Idaho Hatcheries have been on a dry pellet diet. Another of my duties while working , besides shooting birds, was to grind up the various types of meat supplied to the hatchery and feed it to the fish. There was a local sheepherder that supplemented his meager salary by shooting wild horses and selling the meat to the hatchery. I fed several wild horses to the trout that summer.

  11. kt Avatar

    So Larry – When are you going to write this and all your other experiences down?

    Shooting wild horses … The biography of the ultimate Idaho despoiler of the natural world, J. R. Simplot of the public lands welfare ranching, phosphate mining Hell, pesticide and of course potato empire, describes how J. R. got his start. Shooting wild horses and feeding them to hogs. Then selling the hogs.

  12. Tilly Avatar

    Way to go FWS!

    F&G just needs a new PR person to do some rebranding. Call the oil-slinging an experiment! Or maybe a collaborative!

    KT, love the Wildlife Services lingo.

  13. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I wasn’t thinking. I should have followed that sheepherder around to see where he found his wild horses. I might have become a billionaire.

  14. kt Avatar

    yeah, effngee’d like brandin’ … that’s a form of animal mutilation, after all … the sickening smell of singed flesh and hair.

  15. Bob Wharff Avatar
    Bob Wharff

    It is funny that everyone posting on this blog cheers when something like this happens but no one offers any solution.

    The IDFG Department still has a problem which needs to be addressed. If they do not protect the Yellowstone Cuthroat trout from too much depredation, it can contribute to the listing of that species.

    A possible solution would be to allow people to gather the eggs for use. Most of us would likely not participate but I am sure that some cultures would readily use these eggs as a food source. Rather than just waste something, maybe the could find a beneficial use for the pelican eggs to help thin out their densities and remedy their situation.

  16. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Thats why those of us that buy hunting and fishing licenses hire all those experts with degrees in fish and wildlife to work for us. Surely they can be more creative than to just stomp on or oil the pelican’s eggs. I don’t think that the Yellowstone Cutthroat are going to be listed because of what the pelicans are doing on Blackfoot Reservoir. I think the IDFG is more concerned that they won’t be able sell as many fishing licenses than they are about protecting the cutthroat trout. If the pelicans were owned by an Idaho Woolgrower, the IDFG would be told by Butch Otter to hire someone to help the pelicans catch the cutthroats.

  17. Anna Avatar

    Idaho kills everything, what’s next i wonder?

  18. bruce Avatar

    Reminds me of back in1969 when I got a job as fire lookout on Pinyon Peak on the Challis. Part of orientation was a talk by the former lookout from Loon Creek Point, who helpfully pointed out that one way to keep from getting bored was to shoot any hawks and eagles who came flying by the lookout. Even in those days the local FS boss looked a little emabarassed at that. He sort of indicated maybe you were suppose to figure out that activity on your own

  19. Ryan Avatar

    Larry and KT,

    No offense, but your Foil hat thoeories are getting a bit tiresome.

    The big issue is that the dams which create the Resoviors make habitat for the pelicans which increases there predation on the Westslope cutthroat in ares that historically were not top shelf pelican habitat. The perfect answer would be to get rid of the dams, but that will most likely not happen in our life time. Pelican population reduction will help in the mean time to reduce population losses.. Unfortuntely self righteous liberal do gooders like your selves are what holds this kind of action up. I fully blame your kind for the collapse of lake washington steelhead, due to the love of a few sea lions at ballard locks. The problem is that instead of looking at a band aid fix to get help things out, ya’ll are stuck with the perfect solution or nothing, which isn’t going to happen.

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Although I wrote a lot about it in my article (some time earlier) on the pelicans, is this isn’t really a Yellowstone cutthroat trout issue. Their major source of food is the Utah chub, followed by suckers and carp.

    However they do eat a lot of trout planters (sterilized rainbow trout). They also forage widely into the many local small irrigation reservoirs. Many of these are popular locally for trout, bluegill, bass. This is a general fishery versus pelican issue that hits Idaho Fish and Game in the pocketbook and political support from the average angler.

    Ryan, I think you are right about the creation of reservoirs bringing in the pelicans. However, we really don’t know how many pelicans there were before the reservoirs. As for “Unfortunately self righteous liberal do gooders. . . ,” I think you are just saying you are Republican. USFWS held this up. There was no lawsuit.

  21. Mike M. Avatar
    Mike M.

    Utah also tries to limit the amount of fish consumed by pelicans on some of its reservoirs, but so far has stopped short of applying for a permit to kill them.

    At Strawberry Reservoir, Utah’s most popular flatwater fishery, they spend several thousand dollars hazing pelicans with cracker shells, model airplanes, flagging tape, scarecrows (scarepelicans?), etc. This is done to protect spawning Bonneville cutthroat trout that are stocked in the reservoir. The State stocks close to a million cuttroat into Strawberry Reservoir. I am curious if it would be more economic to stock 50,000 more fish to make up for what the pelicans consume.

    Utah is also home to one of the three largest pelican breeding colonies in North America. Gunnison Island on the Great Salt Lake supports 10 to 20 percent of the world’s population of American white pelicans. Here is a nice article on Gunnison Island:

  22. Tilly Avatar

    I am proud to associate with people who advocate for “the perfect solution or nothing.” In fact, that is a high compliment.

    So many things we take for granted were achieved by people whose position was, undoubtedly, ridiculed as “the perfect solution or nothing.” Review the 3/5ths compromise.

    David Brower has some great writings on compromise. His position was that, as an environmental advocate, it wasn’t his job to compromise: it was his job to advocate for the right thing for the earth. It’s the politicians’ job to compromise. He chose not to do their job for them, and the west is a better place for it.

    Thanks Larry and KT for doing your jobs well.

  23. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    When I was young(started at age 6), I bought into this kill the predators BS. Magpies and crows were worth $.10 a head to the local Sportsman’s Assn. I killed hundreds of them. Local kids like myself got so good at killing these birds, that the cheap Sportman’s club stopped giving us money and awarded points ( 2 for a head and 1 for an egg) towards prizes such as .22 Rifles and fishing poles. I won a fishing pole 3 years in a row. I soon noticed, however, that the numbers of magpies and crows did not go down. The birds we missed or nested in trees too high for us to climb, successfully reproduced and their young filled the areas left by the ones we killed The entire effort was wasted and caused a lot of un- necessary pain to the birds and produced some very young stone- cold killers. Foil Hat theories? I developed my theories over the sights of a rifle.
    Pelicans fly hundreds of miles to feed on fish. If you kill the ones in Idaho, the ones from the Great Salt Lake and Yellowstone Lake will fly in and take their place. Early rangers in Yellowstone were sent out on the islands in Yellowstone Lake to stomp on the pelican eggs. Are you going to volunteer to stomp pelican eggs in Yellowstone again? There are people in California trying to figure out how to keep the Salton Sea from becoming so salty that it kills the fish the White Pelicans winter on. !0,000 of them spend part of the winter there. Are you going to volunteer to kill them to save some chubs in Idaho? Are you going to offer a bounty for pelican heads to the local Idaho kids?
    The USFWS made the right call on this one.

  24. mikarooni Avatar

    One of the things that bothers me about this fiasco is that Idaho and some of the hook-and-bullet rednecks are now using the excuse that they need to kill pelicans to save the Westslope Cutthroat. The trouble is that, overall, the primary threat to the Westslope and virtually every other western native trout is actually the continued deliberate stocking, legal and illegal of non-native trout, like the Rainbow, which interbreeds with the natives, and the Lake and Brown trout, which prey on the natives or otherwise drive them out of suitable habitat. If Idaho and the rednecks were truly concerned about native trout, they would close their hatcheries, support removal of non-native trout, and institute wider use of catch-and-release regulations to reduce the take of the natives until full recovery could be accomplished; these actions would be far more beneficial to the native trout than any action against pelicans. The fact that they would choose to start with pelican “management” instead of first managing themselves speaks about the intrinsic immaturity and hypocrisy of the culture.

  25. Ryan Avatar

    I actually consider myself a moderate to be honest.


    While I do agree that the hatchery trout and nonative trout definately cause a problem, so do the dams that made the resoviors, pollution, etc. Anything thing to help is good, previous studys have show high amount of scarring from pelican encounters. Much as the columbia river spring chinook show high amounts of scarring from pinnepeds. Within the next 20 years, upper willamette river wild winter steelhead will be extinct in large part due to pinneped predation. Is that the only reason, no but it will be the straw that breaks the camels back.

  26. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    You might be proud to be called part of the perfect solution or nothing crowd, but I can tell you from a biological standpoint, there is no perfect solution, with humans on the landscape, there is only going to be compromise. There is simply to many definitions of the so called “Perfect Solution” even by those on the same side of an issue..

  27. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Bob Wharff, are pelican eggs a delicacy anywhere?

    Larry, you know that the inability to sell more fishing licenses is the only thing motivating any fish and game to do something like this.

    Mikarooni, that kind of stocking of non-native species is exactly the problem.

  28. Ryan Avatar


    I disagree, IDFG doesn’t want the westslope cuttthroat listed because it will be a huge inconvience for them.

  29. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Ryan, you think that having the westslope cutthroat listed would be more of an inconvenience than being able to sell licenses?

  30. Ryan Avatar


    Oh yeah, The amount of work required and habitat protection that would have to go into place would be tremendous.

  31. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Good point.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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