Duck numbers Hit Record Highs

"While most populations seem to change based on the water levels of the potholes, we have noted a steady decline in the scaup population," he said. Reasons for the reduced numbers may include the infestation of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, contamination of the breeding ground, or global warming. “Once we understand the science we can mitigate or correct the problems,” says Throckmorton.

Scaups total numbers have declined almost 50 percent over the past 24 years, from the 50-year average of 6,000,000 to today’s count of 3,500,000. Much to hunters' objections, the USFWS took one bird out of the scaup bag limit two years ago. Although reduced hunting pressures helped with a slight increase in the population, the agency is not ready to change the bag limit again until further research is conducted.

The birds are counted from planes flown 150 feet above breeding grounds throughout these areas in north-central United States, south-central and northern Canada, and Alaska. The full report will be available in later July, and the National Flyway Council will meet the first week of August to agree on the length of waterfowl seasons and bag limits.

The numbers:
• Total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and US): 7 million ponds--15 percent greater than last year's estimate and 44 percent higher than the long-term average of 4.9 million ponds.
• Estimated number of mallards: 8.3 million--14 percent greater than last year and 11 percent above the long-term average.
• Estimated number of blue-winged teal: 6.7 million--14 percent greater than last year and 48 percent above the long-term average. This year is the third highest estimate on record.
• Estimated number of gadwall: 3.4 million--19 percent greater than last year and 96 percent above the long-term average. The second highest estimate on record.
• Estimated number of redheads: 1 million--60 percent above the long-term average. This is a record high.
• Estimated number of canvasbacks: 53 percent above the long-term average. This is a record high.
• Estimated number of northern shovelers: 4.6 million--24 percent greater than last year and 106 percent above the long-term average. This is a record high.
• Estimated number of wigeon: 2.8 million--29 percent greater than last year.
• Estimated number of northern pintails: 3.3 million--19 percent below the 1955-2005 average.