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CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) — The tufted puffins population at Haystack Rock in Oregon’s Cannon Beach is steadily declining, and no one knows why.

Federal wildlife officials will study the low count of the seabird with a $15,000 donation from the Friends of Haystack Rock, the Daily Astorian reported .

“We really need to collect more data, and it has taken a long time for us to do that,” said Shawn Stephensen, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “This gives us the opportunity to do that.”

The money will purchase five transmitters, which will be attached to puffins and track where exactly the seabirds go in the winter. Researchers also plan to take blood and fecal samples, which will be used to analyze what the birds eat and whether the Haystack Rock birds are genetically unique from other tufted puffins.

A “Protect our Puffins” sweatshirt campaign started by John Underwood, a Friends of Haystack Rock board member and longtime Cannon Beach homeowner, raised more than $9,000 of the $15,000 total donation.

Future research will take more money, however, a challenge the Friends of Haystack Rock volunteer group will continue to take on, Board President Stacy Benefield said.

“This is something new for us,” Benefield said. “We’ve never funded research like this before. We hope to keep participating to protect our puffins.”

The tufted puffins species has steadily declined on the Oregon coast from about 5,000 birds nesting 20 years ago to just a few hundred today.

The puffin population on Haystack Rock has dropped from 368 in 2010 to just over 100 today.


Information from: The Daily Astorian,