By DAN JOLING | Associated Press – Sat, Oct 17, 2015
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A colorful, threatened sea duck whose numbers plummeted in Alaska may be reintroduced to the southwest corner of the state.
Federal wildlife officials are taking public testimony on possible environmental effects of a plan to move breeding pairs of Steller's eiders to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, where the birds once thrived.
Only 11 nests have been found there in the past 18 years. The birds' declining numbers on the delta figured heavily in a 1997 federal decision to declare the species threatened.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal calls for the release of Steller's eiders raised in captivity at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. The agency says it's unlikely a subpopulation of Steller's eiders will re-establish itself without the introduction of captive birds.
Wild Steller's eiders continue to breed on tundra near coastlines in Arctic Russia and on Alaska's North Slope near Barrow, the northernmost community in the United States. The Alaska population is the only one listed under the Endangered Species Act.