By Tyler Shoberg, Associate Editor
Thieves Leave Kansas Hunters High and Dry
When thieves made off with a water pump engine and fuel tank from the Black Vermillion Marsh in early October, they stole much more than some industrial equipment.
No pump means no duck hunting.
The season opens Saturday, and a public marsh normally teeming with waterfowl in fall will be void of water — and of ducks.
Even worse, in this drought-stricken region of Kansas heavily reliant on water-managed wetlands, the loss of the only pump used to flood the wetland threatens to wipe out the entire season of duck hunting opportunities at Black Vermillion Marsh.
"The lake here is 10 feet low, the second-lowest level on record. Whatever rain we get goes right into the ground," said James Svaty, of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. "It's either pump or not have water."
Located 15 miles southeast of Blue Rapids, Kan., within Tuttle Creek Wildlife Area, the Black Vermillion Marsh is one of just two public hunting spots in the area that managers can control with pumps.
"It's going to be a big hit for us. People get a lot of use out of the marsh," Svaty said, adding that about 200 people hunt the marsh in a typical season.
The stolen items consist of a red Case diesel engine and black 300-gallon fuel tank. Because of the specialized design, KDWPT officials can't retrofit existing equipment. The pump and tank are valued at $30,000. The state likely will be forced to purchase new gear using limited department funds, money that comes straight from hunters' wallets via licenses and other fees.
Black Vermillion Marsh's unit has a split season that runs Oct. 27 to Dec. 20 and Jan. 19 to 27. Optimistically, pumps could be running by Dec. 1 — the typical peak of the mallard migration — however officials said it's more realistic that replacement equipment won't be available until much later.
"It's unfortunate that stuff like this happens, but we're trying to move forward with it and at least make an attempt to get another unit bought," Svaty said. "When we get it, we'll be going over there and hooking it up right away, as long as it's before the hunting season is over."
The fuel tank and engine are mounted on a large, black fifth-wheel, tandem-axle trailer. Officials are asking anyone with information to contact the Marshall County Sheriff's Office at (785) 562-3141, or the KDWPT office at (785) 363-7316.