Don’t hike or bike off the trails at Eccles Wildlife Education Center

Good Morning Utah

The Eccles Wildlife Education Center is a great place to hike or even to bike, but the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is asking everyone to stick to the trails. Billy Fenimore joined Good Morning Utah to discuss why going of the trail and cause problems for the birds living there.

Included below is some of what was discussed.

You hear the warbling of a bird and turn to see an avocet near the shoreline. Several geese fly overhead and you smell the earthy marsh as you stroll through the wetlands in Farmington Bay. If you come to watch birds or get some exercise on the nature trail loop at the scenic George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Wildlife Education Center, please make sure to stay on the trails and remember that bicycles are not allowed.

Managed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the education center opened in September 2018, a few miles southwest of Lagoon in the city of Farmington. The center offers a great opportunity to learn more about various bird species – as well as see them in nature. There is also a 1.6-mile trail loop that provides opportunities to get a closer look at the resident and migratory bird species that use the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area.

Unfortunately, some recent visitors to the area have been biking on the trails, and others have been leaving the trails entirely and traveling along the dike in the Teal Lake area. Others have been wandering through the tall native grasses around the nature center property.

“The biggest issue when you walk off the trail is that you can flush birds from their nests,” DWR center coordinator Billy Fenimore said. “Once they are scared away, birds can abandon their nests. Then the eggs are no longer being incubated and won’t hatch. It’s a problem especially during the spring, which is nesting season. When the birds are flushed from their nests, it can also allow other avian predators to prey on the nests. And it is a very real possibility for people to accidentally step on a nest.”

Going off trails or riding a bike through the area can also damage essential wildlife habitat. DWR biologists will be planting various plants on the sides of the dike in the Teal Lake area on June 21, making it even more crucial to not walk or ride in the area so as not to damage the plants.

Dogs are not allowed on the trails during certain times of the year because they can startle and disturb nesting birds. Farmington Bay is closed to dogs from March 1 to September due to the sensitive nature of the nesting birds. Areas closed to public access for nesting are clearly posted throughout the area, and DWR employees ask that people respect these closures.

“We love having people visit and enjoy the beautiful birds and peaceful scenery out here,” Fenimore said. “This area is home to over 75 bird species right now, and we often see more than 200 species travel through here each year. We just ask that you visit responsibly and help take care of the habitat and wildlife.”

Currently, visitors can see various waterfowl species, including various ducks and geese. During the spring and throughout the summer, visitors can also see shore birds such as the American avocet and black-necked stilts. In the winter, visitors can also expect to see bald eagles near the education center.

The Eccles Wildlife Education Center is open Tuesday-Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. It is closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays, but the nature trails may be used during daylight hours any day of the week.

To learn more you can visit the DWR’s website.

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