A mixed picture in North Dakota’s waterfowl survey results

Joe AlbertThe results of North Dakota’s annual breeding duck population study are a study in opposites. And an interesting one, indeed.

Consider: The total duck breeding population, nearly 4.8 million, is the third-highest since the state surveys began in 1948. That’s up 16 percent from last year and exceeded the long-term average by 112 percent.

On the other hand: The water index, or pond numbers, was down 57 percent from last year, and was 6 percent below the long-term average.

What gives?

According to the report: “Breeding duck numbers in North Dakota generally trend with wetland conditions. This year is an exception … The large numbers of ducks in North Dakota this spring can be attributed to the large number of ducks that we have been producing for many years and the exceptional production we saw last year – all due to abundant water conditions and exceptional nesting cover in the form of large blocks of undisturbed grass provided by CRP. These birds tend to home to their natal areas and thus returned to North Dakota this spring. Only time will tell if we have, this year, the pair territories (ponds) and the nesting cover (grass) to support another year of exceptional production.”

Indeed, the report paints a pretty short-term picture, but the long-term forecast is pretty much the opposite, thanks to continuing and looming CRP losses.

“This loss of critical nesting cover will be disastrous for breeding ducks and hunting opportunities in North Dakota,” the report says.

So the bottom line: Think the conservation title of the federal Farm Bill isn’t important? Think again.

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