Ten years ago this is a trip that you probably wouldn't have wanted to take for a variety of reasons.
"It had a really bad stench to it," said John Gobeille of Vt. Fish and Wildlife. "It's really, really noisy... It really wasn't a nice place to visit."
But that didn't stop the visitors from flocking to Young Island in Lake Champlain. The catch? All of those visitors were birds.
When you visit the island today it actually looks like a pretty nice place. There are tall grasses, green shrubs and lots of tall trees, but 13 years ago it was a completely different story. This island looked more like a nuclear testing site.
In 1981, cormorants invaded this island and they multiplied. By 1999, more than 3,000 of the birds called this island their summer home and they began destroying everything in sight. The bird's droppings denuded trees and the gulls took care of the rest.
"While the cormorants were killing the trees, the gulls were killing this, the under-story," Gobeille said.
But the bigger worry was actually in the lake. Cormorants eat millions of pounds of fish and have actually been blamed for declines in some species. Vt. Fish and Wildlife officials waged war and 13 years later, it appears they're winning.
"Yeah, it's coming back," Gobeille said.
Some of the birds have been killed and cormorant eggs on the island are now coated with corn oil, which prevents them from hatching. No birds have been born here in four years, but they are hatching elsewhere.
"The birds move around, so you could be on one part of the lake and say wow there haven't been a lot of cormorants in the past couple of years, to find out they've moved their feeding grounds to some place out," Vt. Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry said.
Four Brothers Islands near Willsboro, N.Y., is the biggest hot spot and signs of the birds are also showing up on about 10 other islands. The birds keep coming primarily from out of state. As many as 60,000 have flocked here, according to some estimates.
"We don't know if they're from the Finger Lakes or the St. Lawrence Seaway or whatever, so the aggregates have increased over time," Berry said.
So it's a problem that presently has no solution, but this a battle officials say they'll to continue to fight one island and one bird at a time.
Wildlife officials want to bring the nuisance birds down to more manageable numbers. They do not want to completely get rid of cormorants on the lake.
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