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Artificial nesting pad used to lure endangered birds onto Lake Texoma

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LAKE TEXOMA -- Every summer, an endangered bird likes to make its nest in a less than ideal location on Lake Texoma.

Now, the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is using a new tool in hopes of enticing the animals to a safer area.

The eggs of the Interior Least Tern blend in with gravel near oil pads at the Refuge. In fact, workers have to mark the area once a nest is located so others will see them.

"A lot of times visitors, fisherman, birders, if you're not paying attention, there's a strong possibility you could harm or destroy the nest," Rick Cantu with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Roads to two of the oil pads are now closed off where nests have been made this year, a move the Refuge had hoped to avoid by creating an artificial nesting platform.

One platform is already anchored on Lake Texoma and another is in the process of being built by Russell Daniel.

"They're a metal structure, but they'll have a layer of gravel on top that the Terns like to nest on," Daniel said.

Interior Least Terns have been nesting on the oil pads for years. But the Refuge says the success rate of young Terns hatching and leaving the nest is extremely low. The culprits -- it says -- are predators and extreme heat.

To protect the nests made on land, access to the oil pad by the oil company is limited to emergencies.

But the barriers aren't just for the birds safety.

"If you are very close and they have young or eggs they are trying to protect, they will do a dive bomb so, kind of, fly towards you," Cantu said.

So far, no birds have taken up a home on the new platforms.

The refuge says if their plan to lure them out onto the lake doesn't work this summer, they'll try again next year.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is working on the project with the Army Corp of Engineers and the oil company, Jetta Operating Company, Inc.

The Refuge says similar efforts in Florida over the past several years have proved to be successful.