Drought Forces Hunting Closure on Lower Klamath and Tule Lake Refuges

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BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — The ongoing and severe drought in California and the western United States has led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close a popular national wildlife refuge complex to all bird hunting this season.

The Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges, which sit right on the border of Oregon and California, will be closed to all hunting from Sept. 17, 2022 to March 10, 2023.

“The decision to close the hunt season was based on the ongoing and severe drought conditions and a lack of available habitat, including food, water and shelter, to support upland game and migratory water birds,” according to a USFWS press release.

The Lower Klamath NWR was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the nation’s first waterfowl refuge, and has served as an important stopover place for millions of migratory birds in the Pacific Flyway. Areas of the refuge normally open to waterfowl hunting also provide excellent opportunities for ducks, geese and upland birds.

California has been mired in severe drought for three years, causing major disruptions to water supplies for agriculture, industry, households and wildlife.

In related news, the USFWS has issued an advisory about potential public use changes at four additional refuges in northern California.

The Sacramento, Delevan, Colusa and Sutter National Wildlife Refuges will have greatly reduced water allocations this year. As a result, seasonal flooding in unlikely until mid-November, and then, only about half of normal.

“If disease occurrence (highly pathogenic avian influenza) remains low, we will open Sacramento, Colusa and Delevan NWR to hunting, however, we do not anticipate being able to open until the middle of November,” according to the USFWS. “Due to the 50 percent reduction in flooded wetland acres, we will have reduced hunter quotas this year.”

Similarly, Sutter NWR won’t open to hunting until enough water is available to flood the refuge.

For much more on the California drought and its impact on waterfowl and waterfowl hunting, see the feature story in the upcoming Fall Issue of Delta Waterfowl magazine. — Paul Wait