SAN LEANDRO — The California Department of Fish and Game is investigating the shooting of about 60 birds — including sea gulls, pelicans, cormorants and ducks, according to witnesses — near Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline.
They apparently were killed last week by contractors hired by the Oakland International Airport to shoo birds away from the runways.
Lt. Sheree Christensen, of the Department of Fish and Game, said she had never heard of so many dead birds floating in the water due to "hazing" activities to clear birds from runways. "It is unusual," she said.
Robert Bernardo, a spokesman for the airport, said the contractors typically use nonlethal methods to scare the birds away, but he did not have details on what methods were used that day.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture contracts with the airport on bird abatement, but as of press time no one from the agency was available for comment.
"The airport has a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan approved by the FAA," Bernardo explained. "The purpose of it is to deter wildlife activity and stop bird strikes."
Bernardo said bird abatement activities were conducted Dec. 23. "They noticed heavy bird activity in the area near the runway," he said.
An airport runway extends into the San Francisco Bay a short distance from Oyster Bay and the San Leandro Marina.
"Depending on the situation, they may have to use lethal methods," Bernardo said.
A man who called Bay Area News Group said he was on his bike along the shoreline the morning of Dec. 23 and heard what sounded like shotgun blasts that went on for about an hour and a half.
San Leandro resident Cindy Nobrega, who was at the park Tuesday, said she was jogging at Oyster Bay last week and smelled something terrible. She said she saw about five dead birds on the shoreline that looked like sea gulls or pelicans.
When a woman at the park Dec. 23 called the Department of Fish and Game reporting that dead birds were washing up on the shore, wardens initially thought they had a poaching situation on their hands, Christensen said.
"It is duck season," she said. "But they can't hunt within city limits. On the shoreline there, it would be a safety hazard."
Wardens sent to the scene headed out into the water in a fan boat and collected dead birds from a variety of species. According to an employee of the San Leandro Marina, the wardens lined up about 60 dead birds on a boat ramp at the marina. The employee, who did not want to be identified, said the birds included sea gulls, pelicans, cormorants and ducks.
"There were a variety of species that were found on the shoreline," Christensen said. "I don't know the details of how it was done. It's still under investigation. We're investigating the legality of the issue and if they were following all the requirements."
Jason Sweeney covers San Leandro. Reach him at 510-293-2469.