Sharing Space with Wildlife on the Water

Don’t you hate it when you JUST sat down for a snack and suddenly have to get right back up again? Migrating ducks land on the river for a much-needed rest and a snack. Each time they are forced to take flight burns calories they don’t always have to lose. Just one hour of unnecessary flight time means these tired travelers need to eat almost a quarter more calories each day to make up for lost energy.

We’re asking boaters of all kinds to share space on the water this fall to give wildlife time and space to recover. Here are some ways we can best boat around birds!

Watch for special “voluntary waterfowl avoidance areas” (VWAAs) on the Mississippi River. In the La Crosse District from October 15 through mid-November, boaters are asked to avoid entering the Lake Onalaska Voluntary Waterfowl Avoidance Area on Navigation Pool 7 near Onalaska, WI; the Goose Island No Hunting Zone on Navigation Pool 8 near Stoddard, WI; and Wisconsin Islands Closed Area on Navigation Pool 8 near Brownsville, MN. Orange-and-white buoys mark the boundaries of the Lake Onalaska VWAA and Wisconsin Islands Closed Area. These locations can be found on the refuge pool maps. These “refuges within the refuge” host critical food sources for wildlife.

If you see birds resting and feeding outside of these areas, throttle down and move slowly and steadily to avoid startling them off the water. Slower speeds are less noisy and steady movement is less threatening than sudden changes in direction.

How close is too close? Look for signs that birds are noticing you. If they swim away from you, flutter their wings, bob their heads, or call to one another, these are all signs that we’re making them uncomfortable. Bring binoculars or a long-distance lens to view them from a distance instead of moving physically closer. Thanks for allowing them to get the rest and food they need and for being a part of our conservation community!

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