2021-2022 Waterfowl Report: Drought conditions improve, waterfowl numbers should rebound – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

BATON ROUGE — The United States Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2021-2022 waterfowl population report on Aug. 19. Breeding habitat in the northern United States and Canada was degraded by ponds and other bodies of water from 2019 to fall 2021, according to the report. decreases due to drought.

However, this spring there was a 10 percent increase in ponds in the duck breeding district.

The same report found a 12 percent decline in the total duck population, excluding long-tailed ducks, scoters, eiders and wood ducks. The USFWS reported a population estimate of 32.4± 0.6 Million ducks. This was four percent below the long-term average from 1955 to 2019.

USFWS Mississippi Flyway representative Dave Scott said data was not collected for 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal, State, and Provincial agencies conduct surveys that are used to generate reports.

While the declining population is a concern for hunters, Scott said it’s important to note a few things. First, they couldn’t track these numbers in past years, and the 2022 data was more in line with long-term averages.

The Great Plains experienced drought until recently. North and South Dakota, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, where most of the ducks are raised, saw drought recovery last year, according to the North American Drought Map.

“This is a positive sign for the future. The overall numbers could be lower, but that’s an indicator of the weather,” Scott said. “The drought was more severe in North and South Dakota and Canada. When it’s dry, there’s less water and less room for them to breed. When you have better water conditions, you’ll see improvement. “It’s recovered and it’s going in the right direction. We hope they will use these breeding grounds.”

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ waterfowl page reports that 36 percent of stripers killed in Louisiana from 1986-2012 were stripers in Saskatchewan. 15 percent were in North Dakota, 12 percent in Manitoba, 10 percent in Alberta and 10 percent were streaked. 6 percent in South Dakota.

LDWF Waterfowl Program Director Jason Olszak said the numbers from the population survey and adaptive harvest models will bode well for next season’s liberal season frame. He and representatives of several other state wildlife agencies were at the Mississippi Flyway meeting last week.

“Our recommendation will be another liberal framework. It’s about the USFWS takeover,” he said. “They’ll meet on that and we can choose our seasons based on their framework.”

Hunter, harvest strategies

According to the Mississippi Flyways Council Flyway Data Book, in 2020 Louisiana had an estimated 38,188 duck hunters and Mississippi had 15,661 duck hunters. Louisiana hunters took 19.7 ducks during the season, while Mississippi hunters took just under 12 ducks8. The long-term average for Louisiana is 22.1 ducks and 18.9 ducks for Mississippi.

Of course, the fewer ducks there are, the fewer hunters can take. Scott said mid-continent mallards are still at a population threshold where the USFWS can maintain a liberal pack of 60 hunting days with a six-bag limit while they’re down. According to him, it will change soon. Previous season limits were 45 days and four ducks or 30 days and three ducks.

Bag limits and season dates are set by the USFWS based on scientific data and recommendations from the Mississippi Flyway Council. Limits for different types of ducks depend on threshold models.

“Looking at adaptive harvesting models, we’re a long way from moving into a restrictive framework,” Olszak said. “The numbers are lower than the last time we counted, but if we look at the long-term average, we’re about right. We have the potential to see higher yields due to the wet spring in the north. I expected to see a good fall flight.”

The Mississippi Flyway Board met last week in Alabama to discuss regulatory recommendations for the 2023 season. One species of concern is the Northern Pintail, he said.

“The crop management community is working on a crop strategy for long-term pintails,” he said. “We’re using the numbers to figure out the optimal package of regulations for 2023. We’ll meet tomorrow and make those recommendations to the USFWS and they’ll review them.”

Blue-winged teal are doing really well, and it’s likely that for select states like Mississippi and Louisiana, their season will continue as a 16-day hunting season in September. The river season opens on September 10 and closes on September 26 with a six-bag daily limit.

“Many duck populations have declined, but the teal has increased in numbers. This is better news than we expected,” he said. “Usually in August we start seeing blue here. The highest point is the end of September and October.”

Improving the living conditions of ducks

Since 1965, LDWF has donated 10 percent of the fees collected from hunting license sales to the development and conservation of wildlife areas. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) takes a “diversified portfolio” approach to using seal funds, focusing primarily on the needs of wetlands and waterfowl across the state. Only in the last few years have state waterfowl stamp revenues been used to improve habitat and public hunting lands.

Hunters are involved in the habitat improvement process by obtaining the required licenses and duck stamps. They can be more involved by submitting public comments and contacting the airstrip board and government agencies.

Olszak advises people to read literature on waterfowl habitat management on the LDWF website or the USFWS website. There are several things habitat managers, duck hunters and landowners can do to help ducks in Louisiana.

“Last year, one of our biggest limiting factors was water. “It was very dry,” he said. “One thing people can do is commit to having water for waterfowl year-round. They can also plant food for wintering waterfowl that survive the hunting season.”

Scott added one more way hunters can help ducks in the future.

“I encourage them to take a child hunting and introduce someone else to waterfowl hunting. It can become something they love,” he said. “Do what you can to improve the habitat where you are and improve it where it matters most. You can influence the sport by introducing new people.”

Mississippi duck stamp projects

Waterfowl Program Coordinator Houston Havens took to the podium last week to present a number of duck seal projects at the MDWFP Commission’s October meeting. Money raised through the state waterfowl duck stamp helps fund the projects each year.

His proposal was to allocate $659,570 in project funding for the 2022-2023 season. MDWFP’s commission voted to approve the projects and the amount of funding they will receive to complete the project.

Breeding habitat programs through Ducks Unlimited and DU Canada and Delta Waterfowl are two projects of state duck seal funds. Ducks Unlimited and DU Canada will receive $125,000 to continue funding work to improve the breeding environment in Saskatchewan. Delta Waterfowl will receive $125,000 to improve breeding habitat by adopting a pothole in Manitoba. Havens said most of the ducks seen and harvested in the Mississippi Flyway come from those Canadian provinces.

“We are a proud state that gives our funds to birds that will end up on our wintering grounds,” Havens said. “They match our funds with other government agencies and other programs to maximize the impact of these dollars.”

Mississippi State University will receive $38,771 for research on Wood Duck nesting boxes and their effects on wood duck populations. The project of MSU cooperates with a number of other state institutions of the Southeast region. Other items for financing include:

  • WMAs to meet management needs – $250,000
    • WMAs receiving assistance are Malmaison, Charlie Capps, Mahannah, Sky Lake and other WMAs as needed.
  • Private Lands Wetland Infrastructure Program – $40,000
  • Aerial Waterfowl Surveys – $31,000
  • Waterfowl program training and travel – $9,000
  • Waterfowl catching and tying equipment – $5,000
  • Mississippi Flyway Council fees, banding and cooperative projects – $28,799
  • MDWFP’s Junior Waterfowl Camp – $7,000

This year MDWFP banded 400 wood ducks and 600 mourning doves. During the hunting season, they will receive information about banded birds collected.

“A few weeks ago we bought one of the 2018 harvested wood ducks in Ontario, Canada,” Havens said.

Species Population 2022 Population 2019 Percentage Change from 2022 to 2019 Average long-term population (1955-2019) Percentage Change
Mallards 7.2 ± 0.2 million 9.4 ± 0.3 million 24% down 7.4 ± 0.04 million 9% down
Blue-winged Teal 6.5 ± 0.3 million 5.2 ± 0.06 million 19% higher 5.1 ± 0.04 Million 27% higher
Gadwalls 2.7 ± 0.1 million 3.2 ± 0.04 Million 18% down 2.0 ± 0.2 million 30% higher
Northern backpacker 3.0 ± 0.2 million 3.6 ± 0.2 million 17% down 2.6 ± 0.02 Million 15% higher
Green-winged Teal 2.2 ± 0.02 Million 3.2 ± 0.2 million 32% down 2.2 ± 0.02 Million There is no
Canvasbacks 0.6 ± 0.05 Million 0.6 ± 0.05 Million There is no 0.6 ± 0.05 Million There is no
Redheads 1.0 ± 0.1 million 0.7 ± 0.02 Million 35% higher 0.7 ± 0.01 Million 36% higher
Northern Pintail 1.8 ± 0.2 million 2.3 ± 0.1 million 21% down 3.9 ± 0.03 Million 54% down
Wigeon 2.1 ± 0.1 million 2.6 ± .25 million 25% down 2.6 ± 0.02 Million 19% down
Greater and Lesser Scaup 3.6 ± 0.2 million 3.6 ± 0.2 million There is no 5.0 ± 0.04 Million 28% down

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