Despite a prolonged, ugly winter and a late-arriving spring, U.S. Fish & Wildlife spring surveys show duck numbers at record levels.
Since 1955, USF&WS and Canadian Wildlife Service have monitored duck populations during the spring breeding season and report breeder numbers at a record 49.2 million, about eight percent higher than than 2013.
Mallards and Gadwalls numbers were the second highest in the history of this survey. Increases were seen for green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, shovelers and redheads. Most notable were an 18 percent rise for widgeon and an 11 percent jump for scaup, two species that had been on a decline for two decades.
Much of the increase is attributed to higher water levels and more pond areas open to breeding ducks in North America. Dr. Frank Rohwer, Delta Waterfowl president, said of higher waters, “Hens will nest and renest vigorously, and ducking survival will be high.”
The survey found a May Pond Count about 40 percent above average for the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States and exceptional water conditions in Canada’s vast Boreal Forest areas. Surveyors added, “Better still, many prime duck population areas are even wetter today than when the survey was conducted. That’s unusual. Most years, temporary seasonal wetlands begin drying out in June.”
Duck Unlimited CEO Dale Hall echoed Rohwer, adding, “While we have much work to do in delivering habitat and securing key conservation policies for sustaining these populations, we are heartened by the good results we have seen in the past few years.”
For Ducks Unlimited data reports and conservation and restoration programs, go to ducks.org.
Rohwer added, “But don’t count your ducks in the bag until the weather and conditions bring you impressive flights.” For Delta Waterfowl information, go to deltawaterfowl.org.
Good duck numbers and prospects for fair fall harvests add incentive for hunters and wildlife watchers to contribute to waterfowl propagation with the purchase of a Federal Duck Stamp. The program each year funnels 98 percent of proceeds to wildlife habitat purchases and maintenance since 1934.
The 2014 price of $15 has been the cost of a stamp since 1991. To support these conservation efforts as well as to legally hunt, consider buying a stamp at any U.S. Post Office or go to duckstamp.com.