It looks like another good season is in the offing for waterfowl and duck hunters. The annual government survey is published and Delta Waterfowl has this analysis. The 2019 Waterfowl Population Status Report, conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1955, puts the breeding duck population at 38.90 million, a 6 percent decrease from last year’s population of 41.19 million, but still 10 percent above the long-term average (LTA). The 2019 survey marks the first time since 2008 that the estimated breeding duck population has fallen below 40 million.
There is good news to be found in the survey. Mallards increased 2 percent to 9.42 million, 19 percent above the LTA. Green-winged teal rose 4 percent to 3.18 million, 47 percent above the LTA. American wigeon climbed slightly to 2.83 million, 8 percent above the LTA. Gadwalls climbed 13 percent to 3.26 million, putting them 61 percent above the LTA.
Other dabbling ducks decreased, but remain above the LTA. Shovelers declined 13 percent to 3.65 million, 39 percent above the LTA. The largest decrease was observed among blue-winged teal, down 16 percent to 5.43 million, but still 6 percent above the LTA.
The only below-average population estimate among puddle ducks is for pintails, which dropped 4 percent to 2.27 million, 42 percent below the LTA. Pintails’ preferred nesting area is in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, which was extremely dry; so they shifted south into the Dakotas.
All three diving duck species surveyed showed declines in 2019. Redheads fell 27 percent to 730,000, putting them right at the LTA. Canvasbacks dropped 5 percent to 650,000, but remain 10 percent above the LTA. And scaup (greater and lesser combined) declined 10 percent to 3.59 million, 28 percent below the LTA.
Across the U.S. and Canada, the May pond count registered 4.99 million, 5 percent lower than last year and 5 percent below the LTA. Pond counts in prairie and parkland Canada, which covers Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, decreased 22 percent to 2.86 million, which is the lowest estimate since 2004 and 19 percent below the LTA. Pond counts in the north-central United States, which covers Montana and the Dakotas, increased 36 percent to 2.14 million, 26 percent above the LTA.
Even though breeding duck numbers are down overall, the lower numbers are a reflection of last year’s dry conditions for nesting ducks. The U.S. prairies were incredibly wet from south to north, which will lead to strong duck production. Conditions remained wet and actually improved during the breeding season, with temporary and seasonal wetlands retaining water into July and August. This should also increase the number of more easily decoyed juveniles in the fall flight, compared to the savvy, adult birds. For more information on Delta Waterfowl, go to www.deltawaterfowl.org.
The import ban on deer in Alabama and Tennessee is part of a larger effort throughout the country to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) – a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, elk and moose. Similar laws addressing the import of deer carcasses and body parts are on the books in other southern states as well. Both state wildlife agencies feel that hunters are their greatest allies in controlling CWD.
Under the import bans, no person may import, transport, or possess a carcass or body part from any species of deer harvested anywhere outside of either state without properly processing it before bringing it home.
Importation of the following is allowed in both Alabama and Tennessee: deer meat that has been completely deboned; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; raw capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides. Velvet antlers are illegal to import into Alabama unless they are part of a finished taxidermy product.