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GLIN==> Breeding Duck Populations Fall, Reflecting Drier Conditions





For release: July 13, 2000

Contact:
Chris Tollefson 202-208-5634
Chris_Tollefson@fws.gov

BREEDING DUCK POPULATIONS FALL, REFLECTING DRIER CONDITIONS

Drier habitat conditions across much of their breeding range produced a
slightly lower population of breeding ducks this spring, according to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual survey of key nesting areas for
breeding ducks.


The total population of breeding ducks found by aerial surveys in parts of
Canada and the northern United States that have traditionally been surveyed
fell to approximately 41.8 million birds. That number represents a decline
of nearly 4 percent from last year's record index of 43.4 million birds,
but is still 27 percent above the long term average breeding population
since surveys began in 1955.


"The decline in breeding populations of many species and the drier habitat
conditions remind us that wetland conservation and restoration activities
remain important to the long-term health of our waterfowl populations,"
said Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark.


Breeding populations of mallards fell 12 percent to 9.5 million, but
remained 27 percent greater than their long-term average. Blue-winged teal
numbers, at 7.4 million, were essentially unchanged from 1999, but 69
percent greater than the long-term average. Green-winged teal populations
were up 21 percent but most other surveyed species saw slight declines,
with American wigeon down 6 percent and northern shovelers down 9 percent.


Among other duck species, the breeding population of canvasbacks remained
flat at about 700,000, while redhead populations fell 5 percent to 926,000.
Scaup populations fell 9 percent from last year's increase, and remain 25
percent below their historic average. Pintail populations also fell
slightly and remain 33 percent below their long-term average.


The presence of water is critical to breeding success for waterfowl. This
year, conditions in the traditional survey area were much drier than in any
of the previous six years. Conditions were poor in much of Alberta, parts
of Montana and western Saskatchewan, and only fair in many other areas.
Only parts of northern Manitoba and the Dakotas had excellent habitat
conditions.


Those dry conditions were reflected in a 41 percent decline in the number
of ponds found during May surveys in prairie Canada and the U.S. The May
pond survey fell to 3.9 million, from 6.7 million ponds last year, 20
percent below the 1974-99 average. In mid-to-late June, heavy rains that
fell on much of the northern prairies may have improved breeding habitat in
many areas. However, heavy rains in the Dakotas may have caused flooding
that destroyed nests. July surveys of broods will help determine if the
June rains came in time to help duck production.


According to preliminary estimates of waterfowl harvest and hunter activity
gathered during the 1999-2000 season through the National Waterfowl Harvest
Survey, hunters harvested nearly 15.8 million ducks last season, a 7
percent decrease from the previous season. Persons buying duck stamps for
hunting averaged nearly 9 days afield and harvested an average of nearly 10
ducks, down 8 percent from the previous season's level.


"We are committed to expanding hunting opportunities on the National
Wildlife Refuge System and wherever waterfowl populations can support it.
Hunters remain a strong ally in the battle to conserve wetland habitat, and
the Service values their support," Clark added.


The traditional breeding duck survey samples 1.3 million square miles
across the north-central United States, western and northern Canada and
Alaska and estimates the approximate numbers of ducks in important breeding
areas.


Habitat conditions in the eastern areas of Canada and the U.S., which are
not part of the traditional survey area, were also generally better than in
other surveyed areas. Habitat conditions were generally good in much of the
east, with the exception of southern Ontario and southern Quebec, where low
water levels resulted in fair-to-poor habitat conditions.


Total breeding duck populations in the eastern survey areas remained steady
from 1999 levels at about 3.2 million birds. Populations of individual
species in the eastern survey areas were largely unchanged from last year,
with the exception of scaup and scoters which saw significant increases;
and green-winged teal, which declined measurably.


This recently-developed survey includes the eastern provinces and
northeastern states and is a part of the Service's effort to expand the
surveys outside the traditional area. Annual survey results help guide the
Service in managing its waterfowl conservation programs under the 1918
Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Service works in partnership with state
representatives from the four flyways - the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central
and Pacific - that waterfowl and other birds use during their migrations,
to establish regulatory frameworks on waterfowl hunting season lengths,
dates and bag limits.


The Service also administers or participates in a number of programs to
conserve and restore waterfowl habitat. For example, the North American
Waterfowl Management Plan, an international partnership effort, has
protected, restored, or enhanced more than 5 million acres of wetland
habitat since 1986. Provisions of the Farm Bill, such as the Conservation
Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program, have provided significant
acreage of wildlife habitat in the United States in recent years. The
Swampbuster provision of the Farm Bill and the wetland protection
provisions of the Clean Water Act also have helped conserve waterfowl
habitat. And conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited have
conserved and restored prime habitat for ducks.


The entire 2000 Trends in Waterfowl Breeding Populations report can be
downloaded from the Service's Web site at
http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/reports/reports.html


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses 525 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services
field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds
of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to
state fish and wildlife agencies.


                                - FWS -



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