OLYMPIA - The long Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer outdoor recreation season, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wants to remind people to follow a few important guidelines when visiting the state's wild places.
"Washington features hundreds of destinations where people can go fishing, view wildlife or just relax," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "Following just a few common-sense guidelines will go a long way toward preserving the land and all the species that rely on it."
WDFW manages more than 600 public access sites across Washington, and parking at these wildlife areas and water access sites require a permit. The required vehicle access permits are distributed with fishing and hunting licenses or are available separately for $10 at recreational license dealers or on the Internet at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/.
"Vehicle access permit fees assist the Department in maintaining access sites for everyone's use," said Frank Hawley, WDFW licensing manager. Information on WDFW's public access sites is available online at wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildarea on the Internet.
Leave young wildlife alone
Human visitors to the backcountry are advised to give wildlife plenty of room, and avoid the temptation to approach or "rescue" juvenile animals that appear to be alone.
People who discover newborn deer fawns, seal pups, baby birds and other young wildlife sometimes mistakenly believe the animals need rescuing.
"Even with the best intentions, removing such animals from the wild reduces their chance of survival, puts human handlers at risk, and violates a state law that allows only licensed rehabilitators to hold wildlife in captivity," said Dave Brittell, Assistant Director for the WDFW Wildlife Program. "The best way to help a young wild animal is to give it a wide berth to avoid stressing it or its parents, and to restrain pets that might harass animals," he said.
See the "Living With Wildlife" information on WDFW's website, wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/ethics.htm, for more tips on wildlife-viewing ethics.
Don't alter streambeds
Altering a stream by constructing small recreational dams to create a temporary swimming hole is illegal and can be harmful to fish and wildlife populations, said Greg Hueckel, Assistant Director for the WDFW Habitat Program.
"While these small structures might seem insignificant, they can have a large effect on the fish and wildlife populations in a watershed and the habitat on which those species depend," Hueckel said.
Follow safe boating guidelines
Remember to follow all the rules for safe boating, which require providing a personal flotation device (PFD) for everyone on board. Children age 12 and under12 must wear a PFD while on a boat under 19 feet in length. More boating information is available online at www.boatwashington.org/.
"Safe boating is the first step to ensuring an enjoyable time on the water," said Terry Rudnick, WDFW's youth fishing coordinator.