LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) – Several dead Interior least terns have been found on a small island in the Arkansas River. Least terns are protected by federal and state endangered species regulations. A reward of up to $8,500 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the deaths. The reward is being offered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust.
The endangered birds are found anywhere along the Arkansas River from the Oklahoma state line to the Mississippi River. Their main nesting area is a section of the river from Clarksville downstream to Pine Bluff.
The dead birds were found late last month. Several spent shotgun shells also were discovered on the island. In addition to the dead terns, egg shell fragments also were found. Earlier in June, researchers found over 50 adult terns and two active nests on the island. Researchers believe the birds were beginning re-nesting activities following a flood on June 12.
The terns are protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Penalties can range from fines up to $100,000 and up to a year in prison, or both. Civil penalties up to $25,000 per violation can also be assessed.
Anyone with information on the tern deaths, should call the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at (800) 482-9262.