A voluntary program to curtail boat disturbance to waterfowl during migration

  • Published source details Kenow K.P., Korschgen C.E., Nissen J.M., Elfessi A. & Steinbach R. (2003) A voluntary program to curtail boat disturbance to waterfowl during migration. Waterbirds (formerly Colonial Waterbirds), 1, 77-87


Several studies have documented boating disturbance of migratory waterfowl and all recommended restriction of boating activity in critical waterfowl staging areas. This study investigated boater compliance to a voluntary waterfowl avoidance area (VWAA) within Lake Onalaska and its effects on waterfowl.

The VWAA was a 1310 ha section of the 3036 ha impoundment. Boating activity in the VWAA was monitored from a bluff 7 hours a day from October-November in 1993 and 1997. The number of waterfowl and boats present at the start and end of each observation period were recorded and their distribution was mapped. A similar dataset was used for comparison from 1986-1988 (the first 3 years of the VWAA) and 1981 (before the VWAA).



Of 1664 "boating events" observed, boats intruded into the VWAA on 127 occasions. Despite an increase in boating traffic (from 1.82 to 2.58 boating events / h in 1986-1988 and 1997 respectively), the 1997 disturbance rates, following VWAA implementation in 1986, were comparable to that in 1981.

Rate of intrusion into the VWAA was lower in 1997 than in either 1986-88 or 1993 (0.11, 0.18 and 0.21 intrusions / boating event). Boating disturbances to waterfowl within the VWAA occurred at about half the rate (0.24-0.28 disturbances / h) observed prior to establishment of the program (0.48 disturbances / h). The total number of waterfowl displacements observed as a result of boating events was 435770 in 1993 and 71155 in 1997. More than 90 % of all waterfowl were observed within the VWAA.

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