OLYMPIA - Hunters participating in the upcoming western Washington general pheasant-hunting season should take precautions to protect their dogs during the dry weather.
Wild seeds and burs often lodge in the eyes, ears, and feet of hunting dogs and the dry conditions of early fall seem to make the problems worse. Wild Millet, or Barnyard grass, is especially common on portions of the Skagit Wildlife Area.
The grass, also called wild millet or watergrass, is an important food for waterfowl but the seeds can cling to a dog's coat and get in its eyes and ears, possibly leading to infections, said John Garrett, Skagit Wildlife Area Manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Garrett said barnyard grass has been found growing in roughly half of the 100 total acres of barley and faba bean crops planted at the Skagit Wildlife Area's Headquarters Unit near Conway.
He said there are likely smaller patches of the weed scattered throughout the 13,000-acre wildlife area, which stretches along Skagit Bay between the north and south mouths of the Skagit River.
Garrett said hunters should carefully check their hunting dogs' eyes as soon as a hunt has ended. Many hunters carry a bottle of saline solution so that the dog's eyes can be cleaned after a hunt, he said, adding that a veterinarian can provide additional information.
The general pheasant-hunting season is set for Sept. 27 to Nov. 30. A small game license and a westside pheasant permit are required to hunt pheasants on all westside pheasant release sites.
More information on hunting seasons and regulations is available in the 2003-04 Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet, which can be picked up at hundreds of retail outlets throughout Washington, or online on the Internet.