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South Puget Sound Wildlife Area Management Plan

Category: Habitat - Wildlife Area Management

Date Published: November 2006

Number of Pages: 76

Author(s): Richard Kessler


The South Puget Sound Wildlife Area Complex is made up of multiple parcels of land owned and/or maintained by WDFW. These parcels include the following units: Union River, South Puget Sound Urban Wildlife Interpretive Center, McNeil Island (Gertrude and Pitt Islands), Nisqually, Ohop, Scatter Creek, Black River, Skokomish Delta, Skookumchuck, Duckabush, Morgan Marsh, and West Rocky Prairie. These properties total approximately 8,020 acres in Thurston, Pierce, east Mason, Kitsap and Jefferson counties.

Management goals for the South Puget Sound Wildlife Area Complex are to preserve habitat and species diversity for both fish and wildlife resources, maintain healthy populations of game and non-game species, protect and restore native plant communities, and provide diverse opportunities for the public to encounter, utilize, and appreciate wildlife and wild areas.

Units that provide habitat or recreational opportunities for waterfowl and/or migratory birds include Nisqually, Ohop, Black River, Skokomish, Morgan Marsh and Skookumchuck. Prevention of further development on Union River, Nisqually, Ohop, Black River, Big Beef Creek, Morgan Marsh and Skokomish Units provides protection of critical habitat for many salmon species. Some of these units also provide recreational fishing opportunities. Management for upland birds including pheasant, grouse and occasionally turkey occur on the Skookumchuck, Black River and Scatter Creek Units. The South Puget Sound UWIC Unit, a non-consumptive recreational and educational unit, provides habitat for many species and has played a primary role in the efforts to recover populations of western pond turtles, a state endangered species. The McNeil Island Unit, which includes Gertrude and Pitt Islands, provides opportunities for many species due to limited access. These islands provide habitat for a great blue heron rookery, bald eagle nests and haul out sites for marine mammals, especially harbor seals, all federally protected species. Scatter Creek, a relatively large unit, supports many unique species due to the prairie and wetland habitats found here. These species include great blue heron, northern alligator lizard, western bluebird, vesper sparrow, mazama pocket gopher, and several species of butterfly including the state endangered mardon skipper. Other species historically seen, but not now present on Scatter Creek include the slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch, streaked horned lark, Oregon vesper sparrow, western gray squirrel and several species of butterfly. Scatter Creek is one of only two remaining south Puget Sound sites that supports the state endangered Mardon skipper. State candidate status butterflies: Puget blue, Taylor’s checkerspot, and valley silverspot occupy this site, as well as several state monitor status butterfly species. The Skookumchuck Unit is managed for multiple species as part of the mitigation agreement. Habitat is provided for big game and small game, waterfowl including wood duck, as well as non-game species such as pilleated woodpecker, western bluebird, spotted frog and western pond turtle.

The primary management concerns and public issues identified in the South Puget Sound Wildlife Area Complex Plan are:

  • Monitor field trials for onsite rules compliance at Scatter Creek Unit to protect native prairie habitat and continue to provide recreational opportunities compatible with habitat protections.
  • Protect and enhance native prairie habitat using weed control and native plant propagation.
  • Control scotch broom, tall oat grass and other noxious weeds.
  • Monitor and coordinate recreational activities in areas known to have endangered or threatened plants and animals.
  • Manage wetland ponds for endangered western pond turtles at South Puget Sound UWIC Unit and enhance turtle nesting sites.
  • Protect and enhance existing ESA listed fish habitat.

In 2006, the following major wildlife and habitat enhancement activities were completed:

  • Scotch broom was controlled on 500 acres native prairie by mowing and herbicide application on Scatter Creek Unit to enhance and restore prairie habitat.
  • Controlled tall oat grass on 160 acres of native prairie using aerial and ground herbicide applications and mowing on Scatter Creek Unit to enhance and restore prairie habitat.
  • Managed wetland ponds for endangered western pond turtles at S. Puget Sound UWIC area. Enhanced endangered western pond turtle nesting site areas by controlling Himalayan blackberries. Participated in endangered western pond turtle trapping, monitoring and nest protections. 35 baby turtles were hatched this year.
  • Corrected a long-standing fish passage barrier on the Scatter Creek Unit access road on an unnamed tributary to Scatter Creek.
  • Topped and killed 80+ Douglas fir trees that were overtopping Oregon white oak trees to create snags on Scatter Creek Unit.

Suggested Citation:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. South Puget Sound Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Management Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 67 pp.