Wisconsin waterfowl hunters are among the most dedicated conservationists in the nation. This fall, they are again being asked to take some time to clean and drain their equipment to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
“Our state waterfowl hunters contribute an exceptional level of time, talent and resources to improve habitat and as various duck and goose seasons get under way, we are again asking for their help in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species,” said Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Aquatic invasive species are nonnative plants and animals that can cause severe economic or environmental harm. Species including zebra mussels, Eurasian water-milfoil and nonnative phragmites spread when people move water, mud, seeds or plant fragments between sites.
Once established, invasive species can alter fish and game habitat, damage gear and make sites harder to access. For example, tall, dense stands of nonnative phragmites grass can reduce habitat for waterfowl while limiting access to ideal hunting sites.
Wakeman said all water users are required to follow aquatic invasive species control efforts: remove plants, animals and mud and drain all water from watercraft and equipment.
“These easy actions help protect Wisconsin’s valuable water resources from the negative effects of aquatic invasive species,” Wakeman said.
Patrice Eyers, a DNR wildlife technician at Mead Wildlife Area, said waterfowl hunters may have additional considerations because of their specialized gear.
“In addition to the standard boating gear, waterfowl hunters often use decoys, dogs, waders and push poles,” she said. “This equipment may contain water, debris and mud where invasive species like zebra mussels and invasive snails can hide. This equipment needs to be cleaned right along with the boat before leaving a hunting location. We also remind hunters at Mead to avoid using aquatic invasive species such as nonnative phragmites for their blinds.”
The DNR is working with the Wisconsin AIS Partnership and Wildlife Forever, a nonprofit conservation organization, to better understand challenges that might limit waterfowl hunters’ efforts to clean and drain their equipment.
Christal Campbell, an aquatic invasive species education specialist for the DNR and University of Wisconsin Extension, is leading the effort.
“This collaborative project will identify the best ways to help waterfowl hunters prevent the spread of these invasive hitchhikers,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success working with recreational boaters and anglers to prevent the spread of AIS through programs such as Clean Boats, Clean Waters and our drain campaign. This effort will help extend the initiative to waterfowl hunters.”