Conservancy Plans Lake George’s First Managed Wildlife Refuge Area
Since the Lake George Land Conservancy acquired “the Last Great Shoreline,” 350 acres and .75 miles of shoreline on the lake’s northeastern shore, the organization has worked to develop that property, as well as preserves at Anthony’s Nose, and Gull Bay, into Lake George’s first managed wildlife refuge.
In 2009, for instance, the Conservancy hired Nathaniel Child, at the time a graduate student from the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity at Paul Smith’s College, to do preliminary studies at sites stretching from the Gull Bay Preserve to Anthony’s Nose.
That research produced “A Preliminary Study of the Avifauna of Lake George,” co-authored by Child and David A. Patrick, director of the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity at Paul Smith’s.
A total of 623 birds, representing 99 species, were identified in that section of Lake George.
“The diversity of avifauna at Lake George is attributable to the diversity of intact terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including mature forest, rocky shorelines and cedar swamp,” the authors wrote.
In 2010, the Conservancy hired Liz Clohessy to continue the research, expanding its scope to include other animals and wildlife. Her observations were aided by the use of trip-cameras purchased with funds granted by the Claneil Foundation.
“Liz spent most of that fall exploring different areas of the Last Great Shoreline, looking for possible den and nesting areas and trails and corridors. She identified trails by scat and scratch markings and used a Wildlife Habitat Evaluation form to confirm denning and nesting opportunities for several bird species as well as mink, raccoon and fisher,” said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.
“With the help of two motion-activated cameras, Liz was able to confirm one particular path to be the work of a group of river otter,” Williams continued. “She also identified several paths and canals used by beavers, whose home is assumed to be the large lodge set in the middle of the smaller section of the wetland. Once the first snowfall of the season finally came, we were not surprised to find some clearly defined coyote tracks. It was interesting to see how they travel through the preserve. The most exciting moment was the discovery that we have a suitable habitat for bobcats. The possibility seemed likely, given the land’s abundant food sources and rocky ledges for concealment, but capturing a photo of one came as a welcome surprise. Since then, we’ve come across their trail several times, but we haven’t been able to confirm a den site.”
In 2011, the Conservancy was awarded a $2,000 grant from the American Wildlife Conservation Foundation to conduct further wildlife research in the area.
The grant was used to pay for a qualified ecologist to review the Conservancy’s existing materials, to do further independent field research and to produce a final consolidated report recommending steps needed to manage the land for wildlife.
Last week, Williams said that since the Last Great Shoreline is all but paid for, she hoped to be able announce the opening of Lake George’s first managed wildlife refuge within the coming year.
Acquired for $4 million in 2009, with at least another $300,000 in expenses, the Conservancy has raised all but $65,000 of the cost of purchasing the Last Great Shoreline.
“Once we complete the acquisition of the land, we will be able to focus on developing the Lake George refuge. It may be, in fact, the first managed wildlife refuge in the Adirondacks,” said Williams.
Next summer, she said, “we will begin making improvements to provide better access for school children, hikers, and boaters to the refuge.”
Those improvements include the purchase a small parcel to connect the Last Great Shoreline and Gull Bay and the construction of a dock and parking lots.
The Conservancy also intends to produce educational materials, such as informational signs and children’s nature activity booklets, Williams said.
To enhance the refuge, the Conservancy has future plans to purchase land for public access to Anthony’s Nose, restore wetland habitat for migrating birds and purchase a farmhouse for an animal rehabilitation and educational research center.
More than $200,000 was raised at last summer’s Land and Water Conservation Celebration to help fund some of those projects, said Williams.