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Field reports: Wet conditions boost North American duck numbers

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outdoors Duluth, 55802

Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Compiled by the News Tribune

As reported in the News Tribune last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the estimated number of breeding ducks this spring hit 49.2 million birds, up 8 percent from last year and 43 percent above the 1955-2013 average.

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The estimate from the annual spring waterfowl survey, conducted jointly by U.S. and Canadian officials since 1955, is a record-high duck population, surpassing the previous high set in 2012.

The results continue a three-year upward trend thanks, biologists say, to increased numbers of ponds, especially in the prairie areas, caused by snowier winters and more spring rain. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2014 breeding population survey were improved or similar to last year.

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for setting hunting seasons and bag limits for hunters. The four flyway councils and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations Committee will meet in late July to recommend the season structure and bag limits for 2014-15. Individual states will make their specific selections within a federal framework of season length, bag limit and dates.

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

Duck numbers down in Minnesota

While the national survey showed record-high numbers of ducks, within Minnesota numbers of many duck species are down this year, according to the state Department of Natural Resources’ spring waterfowl surveys.

* The breeding population of mallards was estimated at 257,000, down 12 percent from last year’s estimate, down 1 percent from the recent 10-year average and up 13 percent from the long-term average.

* The blue-winged teal population was estimated at 102,000, down almost 30 percent from last year and 53 percent below the long-term average.

* The combined populations of other ducks, such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads, was 116,000, which is down 53 percent from last year and 35 percent below the long-term average.

* The estimated number of ponds and wetlands was 343,000, an increase of 33 percent from last year and 28 percent from the long-term average.

* This year’s estimated Canada goose population was 244,000, down slightly from last year’s estimate of 250,000.

The DNR will announce this fall’s waterfowl hunting regulations later this summer.

Walleye stocking stats

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported last week that despite poor spring weather conditions, its walleye stocking effort this year still collected more than 630 million eggs.

That’s 5,205 quarts of eggs, or about 350 quarts above average. The collection started April 19 in Detroit Lakes and ended May 6 at Cut Foot Sioux Lake in Itasca County and Pike River in Tower.

From those eggs, 270 million newly hatched fry were stocked in 277 lakes. Another 115 million fry were stocked in 284 rearing ponds, where they’ll grow into 4- to 6-inch fingerlings for stocking in fall.

Natural reproduction accounts for about 85 percent of walleyes caught and harvested by anglers in the state, the DNR reported. But stocking expands the opportunities for Minnesota anglers to catch walleyes. The agency stocks about 1,050 lakes that can’t maintain a walleye population through natural reproduction.

“While most walleye caught result from natural reproduction, stocking provides anglers throughout the state the chance to catch walleye on medium and small lakes,” Neil Vanderbosch, DNR fisheries program coordinator, said in a news release.

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