West Sister Island National Wildlife RefugeWest Sister Island National Wildlife Refuge is located in the western basin of Lake Erie. It is jointly owned by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Staff at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge manage the island as a wilderness area, as provided under the Federal Wilderness Act. West Sister Island is Ohio's only Wilderness Area.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established West Sister Island "as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife...," and it was specifically designated to protect the largest wading bird nesting colony on the U.S. Great Lakes. West Sister Island's rookery is a host for great blue herons, great egrets, black-crowned night herons, and cormorants. The water around the island is too deep for the wading birds to feed in, so they must travel an eighteen mile round trip to the mainland marshes to hunt for food for themselves and their young. To protect this vital nesting area, public access is permitted for research only.
Most of the island is covered with trees. Tall hackberry trees make up most of the canopy, with an understory of poison ivy 12 feet tall. Great solomon's seal reaches 7-9 feet in height, and a great variety of ferns, wildflowers, mushrooms, and other plant life abound. The island is composed of glacial fill over a limestone shelf.
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