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Birders Kept Out of Upper Klamath Lake Nesting Areas


Baby animals have always been an irresistible attraction for human beings.  Such was certainly the case in the early 1900s as the Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Klamath Falls began attracting growing numbers of birding enthusiasts and tourists.

President Theodore Roosevelt designated Lower Klamath in 1908 as the nation’s first waterfowl refuge. The designation helped draw even more public attention to the sprawling wetlands area that already was famous for duck and goose hunting.

Scores of people were drawn every spring to view nesting birds. The list of popular species included herons, grebes, cranes and cormorants.  But it was newly hatched white pelicans numbering in the hundreds in scattered rookeries that held celebrity status in the bird world.

Occasionally, some visitors allowed their enthusiasm for close observation of birds to drive parent birds from their nests, thereby putting hundreds of fledgling birds and unhatched eggs at risk.

H.H. Henshaw, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey in the Department of Agriculture, responded to the concern in April 1915 by issuing an order that nesting areas be closed to public entry until young birds were old enough to survive brief disturbance by humans.

 Sources: Evening Herald 16 Apr. 1915 [Klamath Falls, Ore.] : 1. Print

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.