You can comment now on new hunting proposals at two Eastern Shore wildlife refuges. Photo: Blackwater NWR

Expanded Hunting Proposed at Blackwater, Eastern Neck NWR

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a number of expanded hunting opportunities at two national wildlife refuges (NWRs) on Maryland’s Eastern Shore—Blackwater, in Dorchester County, and Eastern Neck, on the lower Chester River.

The Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, as the two refuges are known, is seeking public comment on its Draft Hunting and Fishing Plan.

Citing the importance of welcoming “people of all backgrounds and abilities to participate in recreational hunting,” Chesapeake Marshlands plans to align with state bag limits for some deer hunting. It proposes that hunters can take coyotes incidental to deer hunting, and use rifles with straight-walled cartridges.

Both NWRs would add a primitive hunt in February following the state season. Blackwater proposes adding an early teal season and dates for youth, veterans and military to hunt waterfowl. An additional 723 acres of land would be opened to hunting at Blackwater. Anglers would be allowed to fish from the bank at the Key Wallace Drive causeway and ponds would be opened for youth fishing events.

The plan prioritizes gradually getting rid of lead ammunition and fishing tackle, phasing in non-lead ammo and tackle over a five-year period with complete elimination of lead by 2027.

If you’d like to comment on these proposals, please note “Chesapeake Marshlands NWRC” in the subject line of an email, and send to [email protected] They may also be mailed to the refuge, provided at the open house, received by phone at 410-221-2034 or emailed to [email protected]

In addition to the email comments, there will be an open house on June 9th from 4pm-7pm at the Environmental Education building at the beginning of Wildlife Drive at Blackwater NWR. You can discuss the proposed changes with the NWRs and provide your comments on the draft plans.

The comment period will stay open for at least 60 days.

-Meg Walburn Viviano