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Grasshoppers threaten Klamath rangeland

Refuge officials may try to kill hundreds of millions of insects

The Associated Press
June 18, 2004

Clearwing grasshoppers have descended on the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in record numbers, an infestation which could prove harmful to nearby rangeland.

Numbers of grasshoppers could reach hundreds of millions in the next several weeks, an infestation so severe that federal wildlife officials are expected to make a decision soon on whether to kill the insects.

Because the grasshopper is native to the refuge, officials need to determine that their spread to private lands would cause enough economic harm to justify an effort to kill them, said Ron Cole, manager of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

“We have some neighbors who can potentially suffer some tremendous economic losses,” Cole said.

Last summer, there was an outbreak of grasshoppers in some areas, but the insects weren’t likely to go off the refuge, and some of the populations were near threatened bald eagle habitat, so officials decided not to treat them.

But this year, because of the sheer number of grasshoppers, federal officials may act differently, Cole said.

To kill the grasshoppers, refuge workers would spread pesticide-laced bran, which looks like oatmeal flakes and carries a low dosage of the insecticide carbaryl. Workers also would spray Dimilin, a low-level pesticide, said Walt Ford, manager of the refuge.

Wendell Wood, Southern Oregon field representative for the Oregon Natural Resources Council, said refuge officials shouldn’t consider treatment.

“We think there is no refuge purpose served by killing native insects that are a food of numerous species,” he said.

Meadowlarks, sandhill cranes, ground squirrels and other species feed on the grasshoppers, Ford said.

Wood also said there is no evidence that the grasshoppers would “go off the lush refuge onto the overgrazed adjacent land.”

Ford said ranchers next to the refuge sprayed 15,000 acres for grasshoppers this week.


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