The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) manages thirty-two Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) around the state. These sites have been established to protect wildlife habitat, and to provide opportunities for hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.
Varying in size from 275 to 85,000 acres, each area provides quality habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. While some are situated such that they are ideal for a specific purpose such as producing waterfowl or providing big game winter range, every WMA plays host to a wide range of wildlife species.
Now is a great time to head to a WMA in Idaho to see wildlife. Why now? Because many species of waterfowl and songbirds are migrating through our state now and they are in full spring breeding plumage.
There are seven WMA’s in the Idaho Panhandle, and they are some of the best places to enjoy wildlife. There is no charge to visit a WMA.
The Coeur d’Alene River WMA is just east of Harrison and south of Coeur d’Alene. It is about one hour south of I-90 on Highway 97. This area encompasses most of the lateral chain lakes of the Coeur d’Alene River and is a haven for migrating and nesting birds as well as other wildlife. Look for all species of ducks and geese, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, rails, kingfishers, snipe, mourning doves and wild turkeys. Over 50 pairs of osprey nest on the lower Coeur d’Alene River, and an additional 30 pairs near the mouth of the St Joe.
McArthur Lake WMA is adjacent to Hwy 95, 18 miles north of Sandpoint and 13 miles south of Bonners Ferry. McArthur Lake WMA provides excellent goose nesting habitat and large numbers of pintails have been there for the last several weeks.
Boundary-Smith Creek WMA is, as the name implies, on the US-Canada border near Port Hill. This area provides great opportunities to view migrating waterfowl. There are also numerous beaver, muskrat, otter, mink, raccoons and moose. Watch for turtles laying eggs in the gravel along the roads; be careful to not run over them. After all, as you would expect…they “are as slow as, …turtles.” Grizzly bears occasionally appear in the meadows of the WMA in the spring, so watch for them and observe from a distance.
The Pend Oreille WMA is best reached by taking US 95 to Sandpoint. The various scattered parcels are found off Highway 200 or Highway 2. Western grebes are abundant in the Denton Slough segment and you can check out the Clark Fork delta segment where you may see common loons. Diving ducks are common here with the close proximity to Lake Pend Oreille. A GPS showing land ownership is useful in finding the spread-out segments of the Pend Oreille WMA.
The St Maries WMA is in Benewah County about 5 miles south of St. Maries. This WMA is managed for waterfowl production, fishing access, and wildlife viewing.
Farragut WMA is adjacent to the town of Bayview, Farragut State Park and Lake Pend Oreille. White-tailed deer are common with 5-10 deer per square mile. Turkeys are common as are many species of small mammals.
Snow Peak is 25 miles southwest of St Regis, MT. It is home to mountain goats, elk and…in most years lots of snow. While mosquitos are probably not what you are looking to find, you can always find them on the Snow Peak WMA once the weather warms up. Take some repellant unless you go during the winter season.
For complete details on the WMAs managed by fish and game, check out our website, fishandgame.idaho.gov. If you go to the Wildlife tab, you will see a sub-tab for Wildlife Management areas. Included are directions on how to get there and what you may see!
If you don’t want to drive to a WMA, consider doing some late winter wildlife watching. Migrating waterfowl are in their brilliant spring plumage and are numerous in the area. Deer and elk are busy feeding after the winter period where little forage was available. This time of year, they tend to pay very little attention to you if you stop on the roadside to watch or take photos.