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Waterfowl over ponds. Photo by Kathy Landini, USDA.

On eve of early waterfowl hunting season, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Merritt Island NWR urges caution related to Hurricane Irma damage

Refuge also announces adoption of 2016-17 waterfowl hunting rules, reversing changes planned for upcoming hunting season

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today urged waterfowl hunters to use caution on the eve of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s early waterfowl season pointing to damage and access challenges in Hurricane Irma’s wake.

The early waterfowl season is set to run from September 16 through September 24. The early teal season will be open as planned this year.

Reaching some areas will be challenging. Hunters should expect high water levels, storm damage and submerged debris.  Access points will be limited and hunters should plan ahead. Currently, the Bio-Lab Boat Ramp and the south end of Bio-Lab Road will be available with full access to Mosquito Lagoon Hunt Areas 2 and 3. Access to the Shiloh impoundments on the Indian River side is open, but hunters should be wary of obstacles created by fallen trees. Efforts are underway to provide additional access to Hunt Area 1, including L&M-Pond impoundments as soon as possible. Peacocks Pocket and Catfish Creek levees adjacent to the Indian River suffered severe damage from Irma and will not be available for early teal season. Repairs to these areas are expected to be completed and partial access restored before the general waterfowl season opens in November.

At the same time, the Refuge announced it will use last year’s rules for waterfowl hunting. This action reverses a decision earlier this year that would have reduced the 2017-2018 waterfowl hunting season both in terms of number of permits and number of days on a 7,000-acre section of the Refuge.

“We realized too late that we didn’t follow through with our plans to communicate with stakeholders, and our state partners before this year’s season,” said Layne Hamilton, the project leader for Merritt Island NWR. “We are going to do a better job communicating about future management needs with user groups and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before adopting changes in the future.”

A new hunting brochure with information and requirements for the upcoming waterfowl season will be available on Merritt Island’s web site within two weeks. Updates regarding access to hunt areas and boat ramps will be posted on the Refuge’s Facebook page and its website.

Established in 1963, the refuge covers roughly 140,000 acres and is managed by the Service. NASA owns most of the land that makes up the refuge. It was established to provide a buffer for America’s space program activities at the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Contact

Mark Davis, Public affairs specialist
Mark_R_Davis@fws.gov, (404) 679-7291

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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