Pere Marquette River Wildlife & Hunting
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The watershed contains a variety of wildlife. Hunting for both large and small game and waterfowl are popular recreational activities. Non-consumptive uses of wildlife for photography and observation are gaining in popularity.
Most participants in these activities come from the metropolitan areas to the south and provide a major source of revenue to the local economy. Trapping of furbearers is popular with local residents.
White-tailed deer is the most important big game species. Deer greatly benefited from plant succession following the logging and wildfire era in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Carrying capacity of the range increased and subsequently deer populations rose dramatically about 1920. Populations exceeding the carrying capacity in the 1930s leveled off in the ’40s, declined again the ’50s, and has now again leveled off. A controlled harvest has helped to balance the population with habitat carrying capacity. Stream floodplains and adjacent uplands are used by deer as winter habitat.
The watershed is one of three areas in the state supporting a huntable population of turkeys. Hunting is controlled by a permit system. The birds are the result of an intensive management and stocking program by the Department of Natural Resources with the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service. The presence of these magnificent birds adds to the attraction of the area.
The river area is used extensively by waterfowl and shore birds for nesting and brood rearing during spring and summer, and by migrating waterfowl during the spring and fall. Mallards, black duck, wood duck, red breasted and American mergansers, coot, teal, bitterns and herons nest in the floodplain marshes and woodlands. The diving-duck group: redheads, goldeneyes, blue bills, etc., use the river primarily during the spring and fall migration. A few ducks, primarily goldeneyes, winter over in the open water areas of the river. Shore birds such as sorarail, yellow rail, and Wilson’s snipe are common in the area.
Dutch elm disease has killed large stands of American elm in the river’s floodplain. As a result, the ecological changes have been beneficial to certain species of dabbling ducks (mallards, teal, etc.). Upland game birds found in the area include ruffed grouse, woodcock, turkey and, in the farm areas, some ring-necked pheasant. Ruffed grouse and woodcock provide the major upland shooting. Small game include the cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, and fox and gray squirrels.
Furbearers which are open to trapping include beaver, muskrat, mink, otter, red fox, raccoon and skunk.
Source: Pere Marquette River Natural River Plan, Michigan DNR (revised 2002)