Reintroduction of Steller’s eiders to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta:
In 1997, the Alaska-breeding population of Steller’s eiders was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act based on the contraction in the species’ breeding range and their near disappearance from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD). Steller’s eiders were once common breeders on the YKD’s central coast, but by the mid-1970’s sightings were rare and only one nest has been found since 2005. Reasons for decline are thought to include increased predation and harvest on eiders as geese populations were declining and contaminant exposure due to ingestion of spent lead shot.
The Steller’s Eider Recovery Team (SERT) developed recovery criteria which include viable breeding sub-populations on the YKD and the Arctic Coastal Plain. Because the YKD sub-population is considered essentially extirpated, it is unlikely to meet recovery goals without re-establishing a breeding population.
In collaboration with stakeholders and as part of an adaptive management planning process, we identified these objectives for the Steller’s eider reintroduction project:
- Re-establish Steller’s eiders on the YKD while minimizing disease and genetic risks to other wildlife;
- Minimize effects to the local subsistence way-of-life;
- Maximize community benefits;
- Maximize broader conservation benefits;
- Minimize cost; and,
- Emphasize learning.
The primary research objective for 2016 is to determine the feasibility of using wild surrogate duck species to hatch and raise Steller’s eider ducklings using eggs produced by the captive flock at the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC). Experimental releases will begin in the summer of 2016 on Kigigak Island in the YKD, and are described in the Steller’s Eider Reintroduction Project 2016 Work Plan. The Service will evaluate this project in the fall of 2016 to determine if and how to proceed with the reintroduction effort.
Reintroduction Steller's Eider in Alaska
News Bulletin (April 2016)
Fact Sheet (Sept. 2015)
Fact Sheet (April 2016)
Field Work Plan
Final Environment Assessment
Finding of No Significant Impact
Steller's Eiders Field Report (2015-2016) (December 2016)
Steller's Eiders Final Decision Report (April 2017)