Waterfowl hunters can help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species

MADISON – Healthy wetlands and waterways support strong waterfowl populations and as Wisconsin’s goose and duck seasons get underway, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is asking for help from the state’s dedicated hunters to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

“Wisconsin waterfowl hunters are committed to conservation and we appreciate their partnership in restoring and improving habitat,” said Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator for DNR. “We want to get the word out about aquatic invasive species to make sure that hunters’ investment of time and energy continues to pay off for waterfowl and is not diminished by the spread of damaging aquatic invaders.

In addition to the standard boating gear, waterfowl hunters often use decoys, dogs, waders and push poles that may contain water, debris and mud where invasive species such as zebra mussels and faucet snails can hide. Use of nonnative vegetation such as phragmites to help conceal blinds or boats also can lead to the inadvertent spread of species that clog waterways and crowd out more beneficial plants needed to provide food and shelter for ducks and geese.

Other types of aquatic invasive species may serve as hosts for parasites or bacteria that can kill waterfowl. As a result, Wakeman said DNR urges hunters to clean equipment as well as boats and check dogs’ coats before leaving a hunting location.

To help share the message and provide tips for cleanup, this hunting season, DNR staff and partners will visit with hunters at key locations. On September 24, opening day for the North Zone, teams will be in the Green Bay and Mead Wildlife areas. On October 1, opening day for the South and Mississippi Zones, teams will be at access points in Horicon Marsh, southeast Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River.

To help protect waterfowl habitat and populations, hunters must take these simple steps before launching into and leaving a waterbody:

  • Inspect waders, boats, trailers,motors and hunting equipment, including boots, blinds and dogs.
  • Remove all plants, animals andmud.
  • Drain all water from decoys,boats, motors, livewells and other hunting equipment.
  • Never move plants or live fishaway from a water body.

DNR also appreciates hunters’ knowledge and experience in familiar hunting areas and encourages reporting new aquatic invasive species. Early detection is crucial to reducing or eliminating the harm from damaging species.

For more information on Wisconsin’s invasive species rule and what hunters, anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts can do to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for “Aquatic Invasive Species.”