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Duck population set for boom


Kristin Mytyk photo

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual spring breeding survey indicates a banner year for ducks.

The annual survey counted 4 million birds, an increase of 18 percent over last year and 87 percent over the long-term average. The long-term average is based on surveys from 1948 to 2008.

This could be a sign that things are turning around for ducks and duck hunters.

Most of the increases were seen in puddle ducks. The pintail breeding numbers were up 157 percent and at the highest level since 1972.

The northern shoveler breeding population is the highest on record while blue-winged teal (+53 percent), mallards (+37 percent), widgeon (+44 percent) and green-winged teal (+14 percent) all showed increases over last year.

Gadwall showed a 42 percent decrease in breeding population.

Canvasbacks were the only diving ducks that had an increase this year. The cans breeding population went up 96 percent. Even though scaup (-60 percent), redheads (-16 percent) and ruddy ducks (-10 percent) dropped, all species are above the long-term average.

The spring water index also showed drastic improvement. It rose 293 percent since last year ans is the highest since 1999.
In fact, water conditions in the prairie pothole region has shown improvement in water conditions thanks to late winter and early spring precipitation.

This could be a boon for duck hunters in the Central Flyway, but the July survey will provide more information about successful breeding.