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Seney National Wildlife Refuge

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Seney, Michigan


Watching Wildlife

As you explore the Refuge you will be amazed at the diversity of animals and plants you see. Seney provides habitat (food, water, shelter and space) for all its residents.

Brown watchable wildlife signs have been placed throughout the Refuge. They represent good habitat for the wildlife shown. Observation decks along the Marshland Wildlife Drive also provide great wildlife viewing and additional wildlife information.

Binoculars and field guides will help you see and recognize suitable habitat and specific markings on plants and animals you encounter. To improve your chances of being in the right place at the proper time, check out the viewing tips in this guide.

Below are the featured wildlife symbols you will see on the trails.

Birds of Prey: Bald eagles, osprey, and owls use their talons (feet) to catch and tear their prey - other animals. Eagles and osprey nest, eat, and perch in tall trees such as white pines. Fish are a large part of both species' diet. Osprey and mature eagles both have white heads; immature eagles appear completely dark. Osprey differ from eagles in that they have a distinctive black eye band.

Common Loon: These birds will be found in open pools where there are plenty of fish to eat. Known for their distinct black and white bodies, they float low in the water and often make a lonely wailing call. Loons nest on small grassy islands in deep pools. Look for loons on these pools: B, D, E, G, C-2, M-2 and C-3.

Waterfowl: More than 20 species of waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) have been found on the Refuge. The Canada goose, the only goose breeding on the Refuge, thrives at Seney because of the 121 nesting islands created for them. The most common dabbling ducks found on the Refuge are wood ducks, black ducks, mallards, and blue-winged teal. The most common diving ducks are ring-necked ducks and hooded mergansers.

Trumpeter Swan: Trumpeters are the largest waterfowl in North America and the only swan species that nest on the Refuge. They can be identified by their white bodies (young birds look grey), adults weighing up to 30 pounds, and black bills. This bird was recently reintroduced after being absent from Michigan for nearly 100 years.

Wading Birds: The most common wading birds on the Refuge are the sandhill crane and the great blue heron. Look for the heron standing on its long legs in the shallow water waiting to spear fish with its pointing beak. Cranes can be seen in marshes or open fields feeding on roots, tubers and insects. A sandhill crane's plumage is naturally grey but often stained brown while great blue's appears blue-gray.

Shorebirds: These are small birds that are usually white and brown or grey. They feed on the mud/sand flats. Shorebirds, such as plovers and sandpipers, can most commonly be found on drawn-down pools. Yellowlegs and other sandpipers are the most common shorebirds on the Refuge.

Songbirds: More than 100 different species are found on the Refuge. Binoculars, field guides, and good ears are helpful tools to observe the magnificent array of colors and songs displayed by the birds.

Wetland Mammals: Beaver, muskrat, and otter are common on the Refuge. Beavers are the largest of the three and eat the bark off trees such as aspen and birch. Otters are fish eaters, playful, and can usually be seen bobbing in the water. Muskrats are the smallest of the group and are vegetarians that like to eat small plants and cattails.

White-tailed Deer: A good place to look for deer is near cover along habitat edges. Fire is used to create open areas for deer and other species for foraging. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk.

Turtles: The two most commonly observed are the snapping and painted turtles. Painted turtles can be seen wherever there are good sunning logs in the Refuge pools. Their legs have red and yellow stripes, and the edge of their shells have red stripes. Snappers are often seen on land late in May and June when they are seeking egg-laying sites. They have black, brown or olive shells, often with triangular scales. Stay away from them!

Wildflowers: A wide range of colors and shapes bloom from April to October. Flowers are identified by the number of petals, color, and place and time of year they are growing. A good field guide is a must. Ask about our wildflower list.


General Tips:

Respect others by keeping your pets on a leash, picking up your trash, and making sure others have room to pass.

Don't be afraid to stop and take a slow walk along a dike, ridge or road to improve your chances of seeing wildlife.

There are many beautiful areas on the Refuge for you to see. Ask at the Visitor Center for suggested routes.

Explore the Refuge at dawn and dusk, when animals are most active.

Check the Watchable Wildlife Board, the Wildlife Observation Log (located at the Visitor Center), and Refuge staff for current wildlife viewing information.

Be prepared for insects... they can be a problem during certain times of the year.


Viewing Tips:

Crowding Causes Stress - Crowding an animal can cause stress and temporary abandonment of their young. To view an animal closely, use binoculars. Binoculars are available free of charge at the Visitor Center.

Don't Mess with Mother Nature - Parents of "orphaned wildlife" are probably watching the scene from a safe distance. If you truly believe the animal has been abandoned, leave it where it is and report the situation to the Refuge staff.

Don't Disturb the Area! - By clearing an area for that "perfect picture," even if you remove only a single plant, you could be destroying a valuable part of the resources or a threatened or endangered plant. Please leave vegetation in its natural condition.

Blend In - Try to resemble your surroundings by wearing appropriate colors and moving slowly and quietly. Look for unusual shapes and movements - the animals may be camouflaged, too.

Become a Nature Detective - Use all your senses and don't ignore any possible clues. Look for signs such as tracks, feathers, droppings, and rubbings. Make deer ears by cupping your hands behind your ears to amplify natural sounds.


Bikers and Hikers:

Refuge roads are open to biking during daylight hours. No off-road biking is permitted.

Distances between road intersections are marked on the map above. All intersections are marked to assist you in determining your location.

Roads may be periodically closed to the public. Check at the Visitor Center or Office for up-to-date information.

Roads may be closed to ALL entry including bicycles. Watch for "Area Closed To All Public Entry" signs.

There are three entry points to the Refuge: the entrance road off M-77, 2 miles north of Germfask; Driggs River Road off M-28; and at the cross country ski area off M-77, south of Germfask.

Watch and listen for motorized vehicles! All Wildlife have the right-of-way.

Obey all traffic and directional signs. Travel is ONE-WAY ONLY on the Fishing Loop and Marshland Wildlife Drive.

Bring water - there are no sources of fresh drinking water. Nor are there any restrooms on the trails.

Pack out whatever you bring in.

Report all accidents or injuries.


For further information contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Seney National Wildlife Refuge
                 HCR 2, Box 1
                 Seney, Michigan 49883
                 Telephone: 906/586-9851

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1994.  Seney, a great place to watch wildlife, 
     Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Seney, Michigan.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
     Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1994.  Seney, a great place to watch wildlife,  
     Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Seney, Michigan.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
     Service.  Unpaginated.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research 
     Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govseneygen.htm 
     (Version 22MAY98).

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