While most visitors are following refuge regulations with respect to ethical wildlife viewing, some have been pushing the boundaries of acceptable or legal behaviors this winter season. Our Federal Wildlife Officers are pursuing a zero-tolerance policy when observing trespass, disturbing or otherwise harming refuge wildlife in any way. For the benefit of our shared resources and the public, we ask that all visitors observe the following rules to provide for safe, ethical and legal wildlife viewing opportunities:
- Adhere to all refuge rules and regulations, including the following two interim rules issued this winter:
- Do not park on the northbound (dune) side of the refuge roadway. Doing so leads to unsafe conditions in which vehicles — including emergency vehicles — cannot pass. Temporary, "live parking" is permitted on the southbound (marsh) side, but you must remain with your vehicle and not obstruct the lane of travel.
- Effective February 3, at 4pm, the refuge is closing 1 hour before sunset. This change is in the interest of public safety as more pedestrians and vehicles have been crowding the roadways during low-light conditions; specifically in the evenings. The change is in the best interest of refuge wildlife — including barred owls — which depend upon the critical twilight periods to hunt or forage.
- Park in designated lots and walk to observation areas where marsh-side live parking presents a danger to yourself and other road users.
- Avoid parking along blind curves and s-bends in the roadway.
- Remain on designated trails and roads. All other areas are closed.
- For your safety, pedestrians and wildlife watchers must remain off the active roadway. Standing in the roadway to observe or photograph wildlife is strictly prohibited.
- Give wildlife space; use binoculars or a telephoto lens instead of approaching closer, and never follow animals when they leave for another area.
- Limit your viewing time to no more than 10 minutes. If you are with a group, consider limiting your viewing time to no more than 5 minutes. This helps reduce stress to wildlife and allows other visitors a chance to share this unique experience.
- Avoid sharing real-time wildlife locations through social media, group chats, or other digital channels. This behavior can result in overcrowding that stresses wildlife and creates unsafe road conditions.
- Never attempt to influence a wild animal's behavior. Intentionally flushing, feeding, or playing recorded calls on the refuge is a violation of federal law.
- Report wildlife crime by contacting the refuge office (978 465-5753, firstname.lastname@example.org), submitting a law enforcement tip online (https://www.fws.gov/wildlife-crime-tips), or calling 1-844-FWS-TIPS (1-844-397-8477).
The refuge's primary mission is to conserve and protect wildlife and their habitats while providing for public safety. While responsible public access will always be core to our mission, if visitation pressures compromise public safety or wildlife health, we must respond accordingly. Our hope and expectation is that, by working together to spread these messages, Parker River will continue to serve as a refuge for wildlife and people alike.
For more information, please visit the refuge website (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/parker-river) and see the recent column published in the Newburyport Daily News titled “Respecting all species at the refuge” (available at https://www.aces-alliance.org/post/respecting-all-species-at-the-refuge).