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Video Offers First Glimpse Of Cormorant Killings On Columbia River

<p>Government hunters shoot cormorants from a boat in the Columbia River near Chinook, Washington</p>

Vince Patton

Government hunters shoot cormorants from a boat in the Columbia River near Chinook, Washington

The public is getting its first glimpse of the government’s killing of thousands of sea birds near Astoria.

The hunting is no longer happening under the cover of darkness, as it was when the culling program started. Government teams are now shooting cormorants in broad daylight.

On a recent day, three men from USDA's Wildlife Services patrolled with guns in a boat in the middle of the Columbia River across from Chinook, Washington. OPB's Oregon Field Guide captured the first footage of the culling operation as it happened.

The government decided to kill 11,000 cormorants because they eat so many endangered salmon each year.

Faint pops of gunfire from half a mile away took four seconds to arrive on shore.

"I think it’s awful," said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. "It’s sickening.”

Audubon had called for a halt to the killings. He said over the weekend he got a personal call from Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington D.C.

“My take is they didn’t take it very seriously," Sallinger said. "I was pleased it had gotten to the highest levels of the US Fish & Wildlife Service but we were completely unsatisfied with the response."

The government has several methods for saving endangered salmon and officials have previously said that culling is the best way to reduce the size of the cormorant colony.

A spokeswoman said the agency will evaluate the effectiveness of the killings early next year.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Vince Patton