Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Hunters asked to stay clear of oil

Battle Creek, Mich. – Officials with the EPA and the state DNRE
are asking for the cooperation of hunters. With early goose season
under way, and the small game and early deer seasons on tap,
officials are asking hunters to stay clear of the Kalamazoo River
between the Marshall Impoundment in Calhoun County and Morrow Lake
in Kalamazoo County where oil spill clean-up efforts continue.

“We’re asking hunters to avoid the area,” DNRE communications
specialist Mary Dettloff told Michigan Outdoor News. “Because of
the level of activity out there – we have over 1,000 people working
24 hours a day, seven days a week – a lot of the wildlife is
avoiding the area. The hunting prospects aren’t good in that area
because of that level of (human) activity.”

On July 26, a 30-inch oil pipeline operated by Calgary,
Alberta-based Enbridge Inc. ruptured beneath Talmadge Creek in
Marshall. Over 800,000 gallons of oil seeped into the Calhoun
County creek, which drains into the Kalamazoo River. The leak has
been plugged, but clean-up efforts continue around the clock.

The Kalamazoo river remains closed to public recreation between
the Marshall Impoundment and the west end of Morrow Lake.

Much of the clean-up effort has moved from containing,
absorbing, and vacuuming the oil from the surface of the river to
physically removing oiled vegetation.

“I understand that hunters are as eager as I am for the fall
hunting seasons to begin, but we ask that they avoid areas around
the affected stretch of the Kalamazoo River due to the concern for
worker safety, clean-up operations, and the heavy amount of
activity associated with it,” DNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason said
in a statement. “The activity levels alone are likely making
wildlife scarce along the affected section of the river, and
hunters probably will have greater success in other locations until
activities diminish and fewer workers and less equipment are
present.”

Mason suggests people consider hunting other public lands in the
area, including the 50,000-acre Allegan State Game Area in Allegan
County, (269) 673-2430; the 17,000-acre Barry State Game Area in
Barry County, (269) 795-9081; the Middleville State Game Area in
Barry County, (269) 795-3280; the Augusta Creek State Fish and
Wildlife Area in Kalamazoo County, (269) 685-6851; the Fulton State
Game Area in Kalamazoo County, (269) 685-6851; and the Gourdneck
State Game Area in Kalamazoo County, (269) 685-6851.

Upwards of 100 Canada geese and a few mallard ducks that were
covered in oil have been captured, cleaned, and released. The geese
now wear double leg bands, one of which reads: “Oil Spill Bird
Contact Michigan DNRE 1-517-336-5030.” Wildlife biologists are
asking hunters who shoot one of these geese to call the number on
the band and consider donating the bird to the DNRE for further
testing.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says that adverse
health effects from consuming these birds are unlikely.

Hunters who observe oil-covered geese or other oiled wildlife
should call (800) 306-683.

As of Sept. 2, a total of 913 oil-covered birds, mammals, fish,
and amphibians had been processed by federal officials. Of that
total, 299 remained alive and under care, 537 have been cleaned and
released, 46 were dead on arrival, 15 died while in care, and 16
were euthanized.

Surprisingly, only 14 fish, all dead, have been found along the
30-mile stretch of river.

“We thought maybe there would be a fish kill as oil broke down
and reduced oxygen levels, but it didn’t happen. That’s good news,”
DNRE fisheries biologist Jay Wesley told MON. “We’re still
collecting a high number of turtles, up to 50 per day.”

There has been a fish consumption advisory in place on this
stretch of the Kalamazoo River for years due to high levels of PCBs
and mercury.

“It’s really not a catch-and-eat area; it’s mostly catch and
release,” Wesley said. “That area is popular for smallmouth
bass.”

Although the number of dead fish remains low, biologists are
concerned that the oil-based carcinogen polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbon (PAH) is further contaminating the water and fish.

“PAH usually doesn’t accumulate in fatty tissue like some other
contaminants,” Wesley said. “We have to look at the gallbladders of
the fish to find PAHs.”

Wesley said several redhorse suckers and smallmouth bass have
been sent to the research lab in Lansing for evaluation. Results of
those tests were not available at press time.

“All the tests will really tell us is if the fish actually
ingested PAH,” he said. “That can lead to long-term issues like
cancerous tumors and reproductive issues. If that happens down the
road, we want to have that link to PAHs.”

Wesley said the river will likely remain closed until spring

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