Eric Shorma, Habitat and Access biologist standing in a pothole at Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management.
CODY - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently competed a waterfowl habitat improvement project on Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management near Lovell.
Game and Fish, in cooperation with Shoshone National Forest staff, used explosives last month to create two potholes on Yellowtail to provide nesting and brood rearing habitat for waterfowl. The newly created potholes are located east of Pond Four on Wyoming Game and Fish Commission deeded lands and measure 25-35 feet long and six to 10 feet deep.
Eric Shorma, Game and Fish habitat and access biologist said that pothole blasting was used to create open water in a cattail dominated marsh. “To raise their broods, waterfowl prefer wetlands with a combination of open water and emergent vegetation such as cattails or bulrush,” Shorma said. “Many wetlands in the Big Horn Basin become choked with dense cattail cover which renders them unfit for brood-rearing habitat.”
“The newly created potholes can be fed with irrigation water or groundwater,” Shorma said. “If the potholes are filled only with groundwater, the ponds could dry out in late summer or early fall. If this occurs, it will be favorable because it will decrease cattail encroachment.”
Pothole blasting is a common method for creating wetland improvements, but its use has decreased as explosives have become harder to acquire. “This project would not have been possible without the assistance of Shoshone National Forest personnel who are trained to safely handle explosives,” Shorma said. “Using explosives is a cost effective way to create wetlands in comparison to the use of heavy equipment and we hope to pursue similar habitat improvement projects in the future.”