Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is hosting an open house from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, for hunters interested in discussing hunting opportunities on the Refuge for the upcoming waterfowl season. Areas open for hunting have changed this year and hunters are encouraged to attend the open house to familiarize themselves with these changes. Refuge staff will be available at the Benton Lake Refuge headquarters to answer any questions that hunters may have concerning waterfowl numbers, water management, access, duck identification and any other issues of concern.
The Refuge hunt area will be open for the special youth only waterfowl and pheasant hunt on September 27th and 28th and will open for waterfowl, sharptails, and huns on October 4th and pheasants on October 11th. All Refuge hunting will close on November 30th.
The refuge was dewatered this past summer to obtain valuable elevation data. We used a technique known as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) which essentially, sends a beam of light from a specially equipped plane to the marsh bottom. The technique ultimately produces a topographic map with 6 inch contour lines which helps refuge staff identify water flow corridors and areas where artificial ditches and drains may limit future water delivery efficiency. The LiDAR images were complete on August 29 and the refuge pumps were turned on the day after Labor Day. Because we started from a dry condition, it is uncertain how much area we will be able to flood before the start of waterfowl season, but the pumps will remain on until the beginning of October.
Our strategy is to focus initial water in refuge Unit 2 adjacent to the refuge auto tour loop. We intend to flood this unit to approximately 50% capacity, and then send all remaining water to hunt unit 4c. We estimate that we will pump approximately 2000 acre feet of water during this period which should be adequate to flood approximately 60-80% of the unit. The habitat quality in 4c should be very high but hunters should understand that the area open to waterfowl hunting will be limited to one management unit for the 2014 season. Please respect other hunters using the marsh and leave sufficient space to allow for a safe and quality hunt.
This year Refuge staff continued work on a baseline inventory of selenium contamination levels in the Refuge wetlands. A total of 212 samples were collected from units 1, 3, 4A, and 4B. The majority of these samples were sediment since there was not sufficient water in these units through the summer to collect other types of samples. Water, invertebrate, and egg sampling will be completed in these units over the next two to five years, as water conditions allow. Vegetation samples were also collected in some units as the refuge is investigating the possibility of using prescribed fire to release selenium held in wetland plants.
Fire staff, with the assistance of Forest Service crews, local VFD's, and other FWS employees from CMR Refuge plan to conduct a prescribed burn in Unit 4A in early September to begin intensive management of the monotypic stands of the invasive grass species, Garrison Creeping Foxtail, that are spreading throughout the Refuge wetland units.
Refuge visitors may notice heavy equipment working on the Unit 2 dike during September where a new water control structure will be installed to allow more flexible water management in the lower wetland units. This is a cooperative project between the Service, Ducks Unlimited, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and will allow for reconnection of the historic Lake Creek channel through management units 1, 2, and 3.
For more information contact Bob Johnson, Deputy Refuge Manager at 406-727-7400x226
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Sharp-tailed Grouse mating season occurs from late March to late May. More than 50 birds have been seen on the refuge participating in their mating dance.