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What’s killing curlews? In southwest Idaho, it’s poachers

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On his first day studying long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus) in southwest Idaho, Jay Carlisle came across a disturbing find. A curlew lay dead on the side of the road, shot through the head. Nine years later, that sight proved to be an omen. “It took me years to realize the gravity of the situation,” said Carlisle, researcher director at the Intermountain Bird Observatory and associate research professor at Boise State University. Long-billed curlews had been studied in the region in the late 1970s by a University of Montana team — a time when their population density was among the highest throughout the bird’s range. In collaboration with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Bureau of Land Management, Carlisle returned an area now known as the Long-billed Curlew Habitat Area of Critical Environmental Concern in April 2009 to try to understand the decline. Maybe it was tied to changes in their habitat, he thought. Nonnative grasses and forbs were moving in. Ranchers were shifting from sheep to cattle. Could that have something to do with it? A curlew takes flight to protect its offspring from potential threats. In southwest Idaho, illegal shooting has emerged as the bird’s greatest [...]

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