The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is permitting a Southern Oregon county to apply pesticides within a national wildlife refuge to control a mosquito onslaught.
This summer, residents of Coos County say they have been tormented by swarms of mosquitoes coming from the Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge. The Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has sprayed insecticide to keep the pests away from golfers, and Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take action.
The federal agency says it doesn’t engage directly in mosquito control as a matter of policy, but it will permit the use of pesticides by public health officials and other agencies.
Roy Lowe, project leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said his agency issued a permit to the county in response to complaints from residents and a Coos County public health advisory on the mosquito problem. Some of the mosquito species breeding in the refuge are known to transmit diseases.
“We’d been receiving lots of calls and e-mails from people who were receiving a lot of bites from mosquitoes,” he said. “We’re looking at a long-term project to change the habitat, but in the short term we wanted to give some relieve to the local community and the visitors there in the local area.”
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In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service completed a restoration project that turned more than 400 acres of diked farm and pastureland back into marsh. The project added habitat for fish and wildlife, but it also created new breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“There’s definitely lots of mosquitoes within our restoration area,” said Lowe. “The mosquito production was not on anyone’s radar screen in terms of planning for the restoration. We had not encountered this situation at any of the other restorations we’ve constructed, nor are we aware of any in Oregon where they’ve done tidal restoration where this has happened, so this was a real surprise to us.”
Lowe said he’s not sure exactly how much of the area’s mosquito problem can be attributed to the marsh, but there are some artificial ponds in the restoration area created by uneven ground, ditches that weren’t completely filled in and ruts from equipment.
He said his agency plans to create more tidal channels in the area next spring to allow seawater to flush out the low-lying areas and reduce mosquito production.
In the meantime, the agency says it is allowing the use of pesticides to protect human health and safety, but also looking to minimize potential impacts to fish, wildlife and the salt marsh habitat.