Springfield — Duck hunters who feel there have been more ducks to hunt in recent Illinois seasons can give at least some credit to a predator management plan that has gotten rave reviews.
Delta Waterfowl’s “Predator Management Report,” released in December, documents the improvement in duck nest success achieved on trap sites in North Dakota and Saskatchewan in the spring and summer of 2014.
“Our 2014 results again demonstrate how predator management can significantly complement habitat conservation to produce ducks,” said Frank Rohwer, Delta Waterfowl president.
Efforts in Saskatchewan and North Dakota directly affect duck numbers – and duck hunter success – along the Mississippi Flyway, and thus in Illinois.
Specifically, Delta researchers measured the impact of trapping predators on over-water nesting ducks such as canvasbacks, as well as on upland-nesting ducks in Saskatchewan. Average nest success in upland trapped blocks was 32.5 percent, compared to just 6.5 percent in non-trapped control block areas in that Canadian region.
Most duck species need at least 15 percent nest success to simply maintain their populations.
Delta indicated that this year it will continue to assess predator management benefits. The research will begin with an evaluation on paired 25-square-mile study sites east of Red Deer in some of the highest density breeding areas of Alberta.
“These sites were selected based on aerial surveys, ground-truthing and analysis conducted by Delta biologists this past summer,” Rohwer noted. “It is anticipated that this research will be conducted for three field seasons.”
Researchers in North Dakota evaluated areas with abundant ducks and scarce nesting cover, plots similar to those areas with reduced grassland habitat and Conservation Reserve Program acres. Researchers compared trapping on both traditional 36-square-mile blocks and on larger landscapes with patches of remnant nesting cover. The work there will continue to prioritize predator management on areas with high duck densities and limited nesting cover.
The addition of Alberta is a wholly new landscape and political jurisdiction and marks the farthest westward evaluation of predator management.
Delta is pleased with the research – and suspects that duck hunters should be, too.
“We’ve been researching predator management for 20 years, and the results continue to speak for themselves,” said Joel Brice, Delta Waterfowl vice president of waterfowl and hunter recruitment programs.
To read Delta’s 2014 Predator Management report, visit http://www.deltawaterfowl.org/news/reports.html.