Benton Lake NWR received almost no runoff this past spring
and, as a result, a decision was made in late March to not provide any
supplemental water from pumping for the remainder of the year.
This year Refuge staff began work on a baseline
inventory of selenium contamination levels in the Refuge wetlands. Selenium sampling of water, sediments and
invertebrates across approximately ½ of the wetland basin (units 2, 4c, 5, 6
and the inter-unit canal) was completed.
Waterfowl eggs were collected from nests in and around these units. A total of 209 samples were collected, with
the majority being sediment samples as that is likely to be the best indicator
since it is not dependent on the presence of water. Results from this sampling effort should be
available later in the coming winter.
Additional sediment sampling will be completed in the remaining wetland
units next summer and additional water, invertebrate and egg sampling will be
completed over the next two to five years as water conditions allow.
During the structured decision making process that
Refuge and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff conducted in the fall of 2012
to complete the Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan it was agreed that the
Refuge would provide waterfowl hunting
opportunities for 11 out of every 15 years.
Of the four non-pumping years there would be no more than three in
succession. This year will be counted as
the first non-pumping year in the next 15.
The drying of the wetland units during non-pumping years is a management
tool to reduce selenium contamination on the Refuge and to stimulate increased
productivity when flooding resumes.
Waterfowl hunting will not be available on the
Refuge this fall as all of the hunt units are dry. Currently the only Refuge unit with water is
Unit 2 and it is drying rapidly. The
Refuge hunt area will open for sharptails and huns on September 28th
and pheasants on October 12th.
The Refuge will be open for the special youth only pheasant season on
September 21st and 22nd.
All Refuge hunting will close on
Plans for next year will be developed during the
winter as Refuge staff begin to write the Refuge habitat management plan and
the outlook for runoff and funding becomes more clear.
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.