Update October 29, 2018 – Current conditions at Northern Montezuma WMA, with Howland Island marshes being the exception, are generally dryer than normal. Seneca River water levels are currently rising, but remain low, with some associated impoundments being relatively dry.
While some sections of Unit 1, Unit 2, Guys Marsh, Martens Marsh and Carncross Ag have pockets of water providing hunting opportunity, they have yet to be re-watered completely. Please consider scouting the WMA prior to the opening of the waterfowl hunting season to check for current conditions. The Seneca River is prone to rapid changes in the fall and therefore current conditions can change based on recent rain events. To keep up with these changes in River and Canal water depths and the opportunities they present for waterfowl hunting, go to USGS’s water data site and monitor the two gauges near Montezuma (Port Byron and Free Bridge Corners).
There are over 40 wetland impoundments on the NMWMA. In these restored wetlands, DEC
staff raise and lower water levels to produce food and cover for marsh wildlife, including waterfowl,
muskrat, mink, rails, bitterns, shorebirds and others. Annual plants are encouraged to grow within the
marshes by lowering water levels and exposing soils in the Spring. These plants produce an abundance
of seeds that provide food for waterfowl and other marshbirds. Water depths are gradually increased in
time for Fall migration.
Not all our marshes will be managed for production of annual plants each year. Some will be
managed for emergent plant cover (often cattail) and open water areas in about a 50-50 mix. These
sites can be productive for furbearing mammals and secretive marshbirds including rare bitterns and
grebes. Other impoundments will be managed to produce mudflats at those times when shorebird
migrations peak, and some marshes are sometimes temporarily managed with high water to discourage
plant growth and provide loafing areas for waterfowl.
By design, many of our wetlands are inter-connected to facilitate water movement – Storage
Pond on Howland Island, for example, is designed to store water to be released into the many
connected wetlands downstream. You can see in the picture that Storage Pond has been de-watered to
re-fill the marshes below it. The exposed soils in Storage Pond give shorebirds access to the
invertebrates they need as a food resource for their long migrations. Some marshes require rainfall for
re-watering, and in some cases we have the ability to add water using a pump. All of these marshes
seem to have their own peculiar water management challenges, and working with them seems, at
times, as much art as science.
NMWMA’s managed marshes are also supplemented by floodplain wetlands found along the
Seneca River and Crusoe Creek – this outstanding wetland diversity makes Northern Montezuma
Wildlife Management Area a wetland paradise for wildlife.