For more information on the research being conducted on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge please contact Stephen_Winter@fws.gov or call the refuge at 507-494-6214.
Monitoring of the Waterfowl Use and Boating Activity in the Lake Onalaska Closed Area Study
The Lake Onalaska Closed Area, in Pool 7 near La Crosse, is an important feeding and resting place for canvasbacks, tundra swans and numerous other species of waterfowl. Research conducted by scientists from the United States Geological Survey-Upper Mississippi Environmental Science Center(UMESC) in the 1990s determined that boating activity within the Lake Onalaska Closed Area did not exceed a threshold that warranted further restrictions, other than the closure to hunting, on public use of the area (Kenow et al. 2003). Since that time boating activity during the fall waterfowl migration has seemingly increased on Lake Onalaska and it is important for the Refuge to know if current levels of boating activity are in excess of what resting and feeding waterfowl can tolerate. To answer this question, the Refuge again sought the assistance of scientists at the UMESC.
In 2010 and 2011, the United States Geological Survey-Upper Mississippi Environmental Science Center staff conducted extensive monitoring of the waterfowl use and boating activity in the Lake Onalaska Closed Area. During each monitoring period, the point of entry and exit into and out of the Closed area by each boat was recorded, as well as the number of waterfowl that were disturbed into flight by each boat. When a single disturbance caused more than 1,000 waterfowl to be displaced it was recorded as a “major” disturbance. A season-long average equal to or greater than one major disturbance per day is the threshold that may trigger further restrictions on boating activity in the Lake Onalaska Closed Area. The forthcoming analysis of data generated by this research will allow the Refuge to know if this threshold has been reached and will help the Refuge Managers decide if current regulations are sufficient or if additional measures to protect migratory waterfowl are warranted.
Learn more about the Comprehensive Conservation Plan and the management priorities of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
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There are 15 rookeries on the refuge with nearly 300 nests each.