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Old 09-08-2007, 05:43 AM
godvlman godvlman is offline
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Purple Swamp hens

Shotguns used to wipe out exotic purple swamphens in Broward, Palm Beach counties

Cradling a loaded shotgun, Daniel Castillo stood in the bow of the airboat when a dark form burst from a clump of reeds.

As the wildlife biologist shouldered his weapon, he had only an instant to decide: does it fly like a duck, but look like a long-legged, iridescent chicken?

Bam!

The answer came in a blast from Castillo's 12-gauge, and a purple swamphen splashed into the 3-foot waters of the Everglades, within sight of the Sawgrass Expressway and the BankAtlantic Center.

As Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission colleague Jenny Ketterlin turned the boat, Castillo reloaded and then scooped up the fallen bird.

"I focus on the goal, not the bird itself," said Castillo, 33, of the colorful exotic bird. "And the goal is to restore this area to its natural state, and protect native species."

In one of the quickest and most explosive eradication programs ever aimed at an exotic species in South Florida, state officials have gunned down more than 800 swamphens in the past 18 months, determined to wipe out a bird that has been rapidly spreading through wetlands in Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties.

In a coordinated, tri-county assault one day last week, shooters with the Conservation Commission, the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service killed more than 200 swamphens, including 172 in the marshlands of western Palm Beach County.

The high numbers surprised commission exotic species coordinator Scott Hardin, who upped his estimate of surviving swamphens from 200 to at least 500. And they are now nesting.

"We want to be optimistic and realistic," said Hardin. "But getting rid of things is tough."

Indeed, hundreds of exotic species thrive in South Florida, and many have been established for years. Examples include Muscovy ducks, Brazilian pepper and green iguanas.

But Hardin said the swamphen, which destroys vegetation and competes with native purple gallinules and moorhens, is worth going after. "We don't need another exotic species," he said.

A biologist, Hardin acknowledged that shotgunning a colorful bird is upsetting to many. "No one enjoys that you have to go out and dispatch animals that are not guilty of anything," he said.

Indeed, Kim Schnitzius, who with her husband, Kevin, first called attention to the multiplying birds when they showed up 11 years ago in their Pembroke Pines backyard, gasped when told of the eradication effort.

"I think it's terrible," said Schnitzius, who now lives in Weston. "They're beautiful birds, and to kill something so lovely is such a shame."

But, Hardin insisted, "The shotgun is the most effective method, because it allows the birds to be taken humanely and from a distance.

"To conserve our native heritage in Florida, that is one of the management tools."

The swamphens the Schnitziuses spotted in the Silver Lakes subdivision probably escaped from bird breeders in Southwest Ranches, researchers determined. Their first survey in 1998 found 22 birds.

Less than a year later, a count conducted by birder Bill Pranty found 134 swamphens.

Now the fowl have moved west, and seem the dominant species in Water Conservation Area 2B, north of Interstate 75 and east of U.S. 27.

As the airboat roared through the blast-furnace noontime heat last week, swamphens flushed every few minutes, sometimes two and three at a time. Only a few native species mottled duck, least bittern, red-winged blackbird were seen.

Over three hours, Castillo, an experienced hunter, fired 60 or more times, so often that he complained of soreness in his shoulder from the shotgun's recoil. And with the smell of gunpowder mixing with exhaust from the roaring engine, the dead swamphens piled up in the bottom of the boat.

Still, the hunting here used to be easier. Commission biologist Jason Huckabee said that on his first hunting trip in the spring of 2006, the birds were even more plentiful. "Now they're flushing out of gun range," he said.

In Palm Beach County, swamphens have flourished in areas where the Water Management District has planted rice and other plants to remove nutrients from the water. That provides cover and food for the birds

"We are surprised that the numbers of birds are as high as they are," said the district's Dan Thayer, director of vegetation management. "And it's sad that we have to go out there and kill them."

Hardin, based in Tallahassee, plans more swamphen hunts this year. But he said it would take two years or more to know whether the swamphen can be uprooted from South Florida.

"These birds are shrewd when being pressured like this," Hardin said. "I am not naive enough to believe we'll get every bird. But we can get them on the reproductive downside

Mike Clary can be reached at mwclary@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6629.believe we'll get every bird. But we can get them on the reproductive downside."
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  #2  
Old 09-08-2007, 05:47 AM
godvlman godvlman is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

I can only hope that they are shooting steel shot!!!

Nothing like shooting from a moving vessel under power!!!!
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  #3  
Old 09-08-2007, 06:50 AM
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

thats good can we go after the muscovy ducks man do they make a mess
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Old 09-08-2007, 10:45 AM
David B David B is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

muscovy are not protected nor do they have a season. Have at them!!!
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Old 09-09-2007, 08:33 AM
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Randy Clark Randy Clark is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

yeah but im sure somebody would complain out on lake brantley if i opened up and started shooting
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Old 09-09-2007, 07:32 PM
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DUCKWHACKER DUCKWHACKER is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

4 of them ugly ducks took up residence under some oaks on the side of my yard the other day. I might have to let the dog "escape" from the backyard for an eradication project of my own.
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Old 09-09-2007, 09:45 PM
NSBsailsntails NSBsailsntails is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

so when does season open on these "swamp hens"
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Old 09-10-2007, 07:26 AM
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

Purple Swamp Hens? Anybody got a picture to post?
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Old 09-10-2007, 07:39 AM
Steve W Steve W is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

http://www.refugeforums.com/refuge/s...d.php?t=422921
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Old 09-10-2007, 01:34 PM
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

Saw some bush hens (Amaurornis olivaceus) last year in Oz. They looked like moorhens, but walked around in the grass like chickens more than in the vegetation. What will allow us to distinguish a Purple swamphen from a Purple Gallinule? It looks like the swamphen has red on top of its head rather than just the beak, it's legs are darker in color, as is its back.
Should we shoot them if we see them?

And as David said, no season or limit on Muscovies. Greenheads during summer with a free permit. Just need to make sure to obey local laws (don't shoot them in suburban area) and animal cruelty laws.
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Old 09-10-2007, 02:33 PM
Captmako Captmako is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

I believe their legs are reddish, thus distinguishing them from purp gallinules. Also as stated, the beak is full on red and 'heavier' looking. I've read they will eat the young of other fowls, and will use thier feet to grasp live prey! Has anyone tried eating one?
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Old 09-10-2007, 02:57 PM
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captmako View Post
Has anyone tried eating one?
Ask again after duck season has started
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  #13  
Old 09-10-2007, 08:40 PM
David B David B is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

AS I understand it, there isn't any legal harvesting of the purple swamp hen allowed by the public. If you read the STA brochures it specifies waterfowl only and the Swamp hen isn't in that group. I would hate to see the lack of identification skills put to use on them . Heck people shoot mottles during early teal, the purple gallinule which is protected would be shot out of existence.
I would suggest reporting them to your regional FWC offices if found while out in the marshes. I am sure they would appreciate the stakeholder input and help.

David B.
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Old 09-11-2007, 08:57 AM
Chopper Chopper is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

I saw a couple on the drive out of STA 5 last season. There were at the bottom of the dike just looking up. I wanted to cull them but figured it wouldn't look good shooting from a top the dike.

David you guys see any while banding?
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Old 09-11-2007, 07:33 PM
David B David B is offline
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Re: Purple Swamp hens

Keith,

We saw several at STA5.
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