Field reports: Little change in Minnesota duck and goose populations

Minnesota's 2010 breeding duck and goose populations are similar to last year, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources news release.

Minnesota's 2010 breeding duck and goose populations are similar to last year, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources news release.

The state's estimated breeding duck population was 531,000 compared to last year's estimate of 541,000. This year's estimate is 15 percent lower than the long-term average of 624,000 breeding ducks, according to the news release.

The Canada goose population was estimated at 311,000, similar to last year's estimate of 285,000. The number of breeding Canada geese has been relatively stable the past 10 years.

Although breeding duck numbers were similar to last year, the goal in the DNR's statewide Duck Recovery Plan is to attract and hold a breeding population of 1 million ducks. "This will require that the DNR and all of our conservation partners stay focused on the long-term effort to restore the additional habitat that is needed to accomplish this goal," said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife section chief.

Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said this year's survey results showed no significant changes from last year. The main indices of breeding duck abundance -- mallard, blue-winged teal, and total ducks -- were statistically the same. The index of wetland habitat abundance was very similar to last year.


North Dakota duck population is up

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department's annual spring breeding duck survey showed an index of more than 4.5 million birds, up 12 percent from last year and 7 percent above the long-term average.

The 2010 index is the third-highest on record. All species except for wigeon showed an increase from last year, and all species were above the long-term average.

The spring water index was up 5 percent from 2009 and 76 percent above the long-term average. It was the fifth-highest in survey history and the highest since 1999.

Mike Johnson with Game and Fish says declining nesting cover in North Dakota could hurt duck populations in the future.

North Dakota pheasant numbers are down

North Dakota ring-neck pheasant numbers are down and a harsh winter two years ago is partly to blame, a state wildlife official says.

The spring pheasant crowing count survey -- conducted by officials who listen for the crowing -- released today by the state Game and Fish Department showed a 6 percent drop statewide from last year.


Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the agency, said many adult birds did not survive the winter before last. Fewer adult birds and poor chick production the following spring due to cool, wet weather also hurt the pheasant population.

"That combination may have kept the breeding population down this spring," Kohn said. "This past winter did not appear to have a role in the lower crowing counts."

The survey, done each spring for more than 50 years, gives biologists and hunters a hint of the pheasant population for the upcoming hunting season. It involves wildlife officials from across the state who get up before sunup and drive 20-mile routes, stopping every two miles for two minutes to listen for pheasant crowing.

"The crowing count only gives us a general estimate of the number of breeding roosters that are out there," Kohn said.

Kohn, a veteran of more than 30 annual crowing counts, said roadside brood surveys, which begin next month and continue into August, give biologists a better insight on what to expect this fall.

Early signs point toward a high chick survival rate due to good nesting cover and plentiful insects for the birds to eat, Kohn said.

"I'm optimistic we could see good numbers this fall," he said.

Pheasant hunters killed about 652,000 roosters last year, or about 125,000 fewer than 2008, the Game and Fish Department said today. The number of hunters dropped from about 108,000 to 88,400.

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