The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge has reopened to all public access after the recent Federal government shutdown.
All public activities and programs — waterfowl hunting, birdwatching, wildlife observation, walking and driving the tour loop — are once again allowed on the refuge, said Susan Sawyer, Stillwater NWR visitor services manager. She said hunting is only allowed north of Division Road, and follows state regulations and seasons. With the low water year, Sawyer said wetland acreage is about 20 percent less than last year, and only three units in the refuge hunt area have water.
Tule Lakes and West Marsh, which includes Millens Channel and Willow Lake, have water and are huntable at this time; furthermore, she said boat launches on Tule Lake are open to all but airboats at the south, north and east sides.
“West Marsh is open to nonmotorized boats only, such as rafts, canoes, kayaks, aquapods and other craft using only human power. Electric motors are not allowed on West Marsh,” she said.
Hunters using dogs in the field are cautioned to watch for signs of infection in the dogs’ paws and legs while hunting. Sawyer said many forms of bacteria naturally occur in the marsh and are more prevalent in the warmer, early weeks of the season.
“The marsh plants such as tules and cattails have sharp edges and points that can ‘inject’ bacteria into tiny cuts or cracks in the dogs’ paws,” Sawyer said. “Symptoms of infection include rapid (within a few hours at most) onset of swollen pads, feet and in more serious cases the legs; other signs are fever and extremely painful walking. Seeking immediate veterinary care can prevent further complications.”
Sawyer said the same bacteria can infect people, but only through dry or cracked bare feet. Wearing waders or boots at all times while in the marsh is highly recommended. Waterfowl are not affected by these bacteria and are fit for human consumption, when proper care and cleaning methods are followed.
Sayer added that hunters are also reminded of the regulation that require the head or a wing remain attached to the waterfowl carcass while being transported from the field to their residence.