Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Breeding ducks take dive in 2001

Associate Editor

Madison The number of ducks counted during the spring breeding
population survey took a substantial dip this year, down 35 percent
from a year ago.

However, notes Jon Bergquist, DNR migratory game bird ecologist,
last year’s count of 833,300 birds is the highest on record.
Furthermore, this year’s 542,800 is 31 percent above the 28-year
long-term mean.

This year, information from counts in southwestern counties was
included. Past counts were updated with similar data.

Bergquist said the decrease in duck numbers was in part a result
of surveying ducks earlier. While the DNR conducted aerial counts
of 66 transects, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
provided a double-check and “correction factor” by performing
ground counts.

Mallards make up about one-third of the breeding population.
Bergquist said the number of mallards was the lowest recorded in 10
to 11 years, but was still higher than any count recorded prior to
1989. Last year, they were up 66 percent. Currently, they’re at
their long-term average, he said. Last year, about 370,000 breeding
mallards were counted.

While for the most part mallards continue to thrive in the
state, blue-winged teal are following a slightly different
route.

The only other species specified in the counts, bluewings were
up 6 percent from 2000, but were 7 percent below the long-term
average.

Spring production

Bergquist said there may have been some flooding of nests in
late April and early May, especially along the major rivers in the
state, but overall, spring conditions were good.

“We may have the potential for some excellent broods,” he said.
“Right now, we could use some rain, but I think there is brood
habitat out there.”

Bergquist said waterfowl production considering all weather
factors would likely be “average.”

2000 harvest falls

Duck harvest in Wisconsin decreased by about 12 percent last
year, to about 324,000 ducks.

Minnesota and Michigan also experienced harvest declines.
Minnesota hunters shot about 658,000 ducks in 1999 and 492,000 last
season, while Michiganders shot about 338,000 in ’99 and 286,000
last year.

All three states likely had similar weather patterns.

“The weather was extremely mild early with nothing to
concentrate them not even the local birds,” Bergquist said. “Then
in November, it got cold real quick (causing a rapid migration
through the state).”

2001 duck season

Though it’s possible the duck season could open a week earlier
than last year, the FWS has proposed a framework like last year,
which would mean a Sept. 29 opener, a 60-day season, and bag limits
much the same.

An early Canada goose season has already been set. It will run
Sept. 4-15 and include the same areas and bag limits as last
year.

The regular season might be somewhat different, though the quota
hasn’t yet been set.

“I look for a more restrictive season,” Bergquist said. “Limits
could be substantially reduced.”

Last year was a poor production year for the Mississippi Valley
Population, and the number of non-breeders has gone down
“drastically.”

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