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Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area

View Map of Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, Part 1 || View Map of Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, Part 2 || View map of Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, Part 3 || View Map of Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area (PDF, 1.8 MB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper

Northern Montezuma WMA

The Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, formally known as Howland Island Wildlife Management Area, is located in north central Cayuga County three miles northwest of Port Byron and approximately 25 miles west of Syracuse. The area can be reached via NY Route 31 west (from Thruway Exit 40 at Weedsport) to NY Route 38 in Port Byron and then two miles north to Howland Island Road. The 7 ½ minute topographic map covering the area is Montezuma.

The area consists of approximately 3600 acres which is divided into three units; Howland Island, 3100 acres; Bluff Point Unit, 388 acres and the Way-Cay Unit, 114 acres. The Seneca River and the Barge Canal form the water boundaries for Howland Island and Bluff Point Island.

Topography and Wildlife

Area topography rises from low lying flood plains to gently rolling hills or steep drumlins. Vegetation consists of a second growth mixture of hardwoods such as maple, ash, willow, basswood, black locust, oak and hickory. A few of the shrub species are gray-stem, and red-oiser dogwood, arrowroot, sumac, alder, and spicebush.

Old fields, meadow, farm fields, wetlands, impoundments and hardwoods provide a diversity of habitats and a diversity of wildlife. Local birders have identified more than 220 birds that may be seen on the area during the year, and of these, approximately 108 species are considered local breeders. Deer, raccoon, fox, squirrels, skunk, rabbits and an occasional opossum are some of the larger mammals of the 46 species on the area.


The area was settled in the early 1800's after which most of the elm, maple, and oak trees were cleared to make way for farming. Farming was continued until the 1920's after which the land became idle. In 1932 Howland Island was purchased as a game refuge. Between 1933 and 1941 a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp was established and 18 earth dikes were constructed to create about 300 acres of water impoundments.

After the water impoundments were created, the area was managed for migrating waterfowl, but even more important at the time was an extensive pheasant farm operation that produced both eggs and pheasants. In 1951 the pheasant work was terminated and a special waterfowl research project and the artificial propagation of duck species exotic to New York were undertaken. Since 1962, the area has been managed primarily for the natural production of waterfowl.

Management of the WMA

With monies derived mainly from hunting license fees and federal taxes on sporting arms and ammunition, a variety of wildlife management techniques are used to provide the food, cover and shelter requirements of various wildlife species. Primary management efforts are directed toward waterfowl with benefits to many other species. Techniques utilized include practices such as water control, water level manipulation, mowing, prescribed burning, timber sales, hunting, crop rotation, construction of nesting structures, preservation and perpetuation of certain habitats, and maintain a diversity of habitats.

Public hunting, trapping and fishing are allowed in accordance with State Fish and Wildlife Laws and Regulations.

Resident wildlife (especially deer and song birds) and fall migrations of shore birds and waterfowl offer the bird watcher and/or photographer unlimited opportunities for pursuing their hobbies. Maintenance roads are available as hiking trails to all parts of Howland Island and can be used by the bird watcher, hiker, horseman, or naturalist during most times of the year. A fishing access site allows fishing and boat access to the Barge Canal. Prohibited activities include: off-road vehicular travel, swimming, camping and boating.

Rules for Use

  1. Boating and overnight mooring or storage of boats is not permitted
  2. Camping is permitted by permit only for educational groups
  3. Off-road vehicular travel, including motorcycles, motor scooters, mopeds, trail bikes, snowmobiles or any other off-road vehicle is prohibited on the Wildlife Management Area.
  4. Swimming is not permitted
  5. Fishing is permitted subject to the restricted period noted under public use and in accordance with State fishing regulations
  6. All hunting and trapping at Howland Island is in accordance with the respective state wide regulations. Permits are not required.

For More Information Contact:

Regional Wildlife Manager, Region 8
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
6274 East Avon-Lima Road
Avon, NY 14414-9519


Regional Wildlife Manager, Region 7
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
1285 Fisher Avenue
Cortland, NY 13045
607-753-3095 ext. 247

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