LITTLE RICE LAKE— Wildlife managers with the Tower Area DNR are recommending a continuation of wildlife refuge status here based on evidence that the waterfowl protection the refuge has offered has …
LITTLE RICE LAKE— Wildlife managers with the Tower Area DNR are recommending a continuation of wildlife refuge status here based on evidence that the waterfowl protection the refuge has offered has improved duck hunting on nearby Big Rice Lake and other area lakes. Little Rice Lake is located about 15 miles southwest of Tower.
The public will have a chance to weigh-in on the DNR recommendation at a hearing set for Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Tower DNR Headquarters, located at 650 Hwy. 169 in Tower, from 6-8 p.m. A regional DNR hearing officer will be present to record input from the public.
DNR wildlife officials are recommending the continuation of the refuge status based on data they’ve gathered since the refuge was established in 2012. That includes results from weekly waterfowl counts during the hunting season on Little Rice Lake, which have shown a significant increase in waterfowl usage of the lake since the refuge was established. “We’ve had as many as 6,000 birds at one time using it when there’s good rice,” said DNR Tower Area Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch. In addition, according to Rusch, hunter surveys on Big Rice Lake have found consensus in support of the refuge status as the majority have reported that hunting on Big Rice has improved since the establishment of the refuge on Little Rice. That included seeing an increase in both species diversity and abundance. Wildlife officials had established the refuge out of concern that heavy hunting pressure on the area rice lakes was causing most waterfowl to avoid the area lakes, or move on quickly, during migration. That, in turn, was reducing hunting success.
According to Rusch, providing waterfowl a protected resting place encourages ducks and geese to remain in the area longer, providing more opportunities for hunters as the waterfowl move around to other feeding areas, like Big Rice Lake or the Darwin Myers wildlife management area in Embarrass. “We think that the refuge is functioning as it was proposed,” said Rusch. “And we have the data to prove that.”
As a state game refuge, Little Rice Lake is closed to hunting and trapping from Sept. 1 through Nov. 25 each year. The refuge, which includes the lake and forest bog perimeter, is about 288 acres.