Survey shows healthy duck populations

With high continental total duck and wetland numbers, state waterfowl biologists expect a 60- day duck season similar to recent years but with the possibility of bag-limit changes for certain species.

This information comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released continental duck numbers in the Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report on July 12.

“This continental survey information is an essential piece in determining Wisconsin’s waterfowl season frameworks,” said Kent Van Horn, migratory game bird ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources.

“The information we are seeing is promising for the upcoming season.”

The 2013 North American total duck population estimate was 45.6 million which is the second highest on record and 33 percent above the long-term average. The 2012 estimate was the highest estimate on record and 6 percent above 2013.

Wetland numbers across the survey area were up from last year and 35 percent above the longterm average.

Mallard numbers were estimated at 10.4 million, similar to last year and 36 percent above the long-term average. Most other species estimates were above or at the long-term average.

“With high mallard numbers and good wetland conditions, we are confident there will be a 60- day duck season,” said Van Horn. “However, hunters should be aware of potential bag limit changes for canvasback and scaup.”

“While canvasback and scaup make up a relatively small percentage of the overall Wisconsin harvest, these species are important to many duck hunters,” said Van Horn. “We may see changes to their daily bag limits in 2013.”

Breeding canvasbacks were estimated at 787,000, similar to 2012 counts and 37 percent above the long-term average. This may allow for an increase to a two canvasback daily bag.

Scaup estimates were at 4.2 million which was 20 percent below 2012 and 17 percent below the long-term average. This is similar to most recent years. The scaup harvest strategy is expected to call for a return to a two-bird daily bag limit from last year’s four bird bag.

The Canada geese that breed in northern Ontario, and known as the Mississippi Valley Population, make up about 60 percent of Wisconsin’s regular-season goose harvest. These geese had a late start to the breeding season but surveys indicated good production and low nest predation.

Breeding estimates for 2013 were at 319,693. This is up 16 percent from last year but 10 percent below the long-term average after several prior years with lower recruitment.

Wisconsin DNR staff are currently in discussions at the Mississippi Flyway Council meeting and will have more information in time for the early August public waterfowl meetings and hearings. For more information on waterfowl hunting, search the DNR website for “waterfowl.”

For more information, call Van Horn, at 608-266-884 or James Christopoulos, DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist, at 608-261-6458.

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