Thursday, April 18, 2024

Season closure begins on north shore of Flathead Lake

| March 1, 2024 12:00 AM

A seasonal closure starts March 1 along a large portion of the north shore of Flathead Lake between Bigfork and Somers to support migrating and nesting birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Flathead Waterfowl Production Area spans 7 miles of shoreline along the north end of Flathead Lake. This federal property closes to public access annually March 1 through July 15 to reduce human disturbances during the breeding, nesting, and brood-rearing period. This closure includes the open beaches along the shoreline of the WPA.

Shoreline and offshore habitats are critical for migrating birds to rest and nest. The north shore of Flathead Lake supports an abundant variety of birds year-round, particularly during migration when tens of thousands of mixed waterfowl species rely on the area’s grassland, wetland, and shrubland habitats. More than 200 bird species use the area. The National Audubon Society has declared the north shore an Important Bird Area, the organization's official designation for places that provide essential habitat for bird populations.

Human disturbance, including walking near birds or nesting areas or letting dogs run off leash, can cause serious harm during these vulnerable periods. These types of human activities disrupt breeding and non-breeding birds by interrupting vital activities such as feeding and resting. Disturbances can harm nests, lead birds to abandon active nests or prevent them from establishing a nest.

Public access to the north shore beach remains open at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Somers Beach State Park and Osprey View property along Holt Drive near Bigfork. Parking is limited along Holt Drive. Access at both sites is restricted to state land and the section of beach that is state land. Beach closures remain in effect starting at the boundary of the federal WPA. All dogs must be on a leash.