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Survey predicts a more productive season for nation's duck hunters





Special to The Sun

July 28. 2006 6:01AM




The nation's duck hunters received good news recently with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's preliminary survey on breeding ducks and waterfowl habitat in the western U.S. and Canada. Biologists estimated a 14-percent increase from last year.


The count estimated there are 36.2 million ducks on the vital nesting prairie grounds. Thanks to ample rain and a warm winter, the total pond count for critical nesting areas indicated 6.1 million ponds - up 13 percent from last year and 26 percent above the long-term average. The survey has been conducted for the past 51 years.


"Overall, this season should be a little more productive than last year," said Bruce Batt, Ducks Unlimited chief biologist.


Restrictive seasons and bag limits on pintails is credited with helping that species recover from dangerously low numbers. This year's pintail count was 3.386 million, which is still 18 percent below the long-term average but 32 percent better than last year's count.


Blue-winged teal are up 28 percent from last year (30 percent long term). Green-winged teal are up 20 percent from last year (39 percent long term). Gadwall showed a 30 percent increase from last year and are up 67 percent long term.


The breeding survey was conducted in May and a fall flight forecast survey was completed this month. Federal and state biologists use these numbers to decide hunting season dates and bag limits.

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