WATERFOWL MIGRATION SLOW, BUT SOME SNOW GEESE ARRIVING
Mild temperatures, light hunting pressure and abundant food supplies are
holding many ducks and geese in Canada, although the first flocks of snow
geese are being reported in North Dakota. According to the weekly report
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, waterfowl hunters still need to
do some scouting in order to find birds.
Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas continue to hold
about 10,000 ducks and an equal number of Canada geese. Biologist Paulette
Scherr says some canvasbacks and other diving ducks have started moving in,
and she is seeing a few small flocks of snow geese. She adds that hunters
are finding good waterfowl numbers in the McHenry area. Scherr notes that
about 500 tundra swans are using the refuge.
Waterfowl numbers are holding steady in southeastern North Dakota.
Biologist Kristine Askerooth of Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge says a
few more migrant Canada geese have arrived, and hunters are finding pockets
of ducks in the Oakes area, but continuing rainfall has made roads muddy.
She adds that the rain has also slowed the corn harvest.
A few migrants are starting to reach northern Stutsman and southern Wells
counties. Biologist Chris Flann of the Chase Lake Wetland Management
District reports seeing more canvasbacks and other diving ducks. He says
field hunting has been productive in southwestern Wells County.
Very few new birds have reached the Kulm area. Refuge manager Mick
Erickson of the Kulm Wetland Management District says some hunters are
still doing well, but local birds are becoming harder to decoy. Erickson
reports very few lesser Canada geese have arrived, and he has yet to see
any snow geese.
Some migrant Canada geese, a few snow geese and white-fronted geese, as
well as greater numbers of sandhill cranes have arrived at Long Lake
National Wildlife Refuge in Burleigh and Kidder counties. Biologist Mike
Rabenberg estimates the refuge was holding 7,000 Canada geese, more than
5,000 sandhill cranes and quite a few diving ducks plus green-winged teal,
pintails and mallards at mid-week. He believes the best hunting
opportunities continue to be in northern Burleigh and northern Kidder
Waterfowl numbers remain low in the Valley City area. Wetland manager Ed
Meendering of the Valley City Wetland Management District says he noticed a
minor migration of lesser Canada geese last weekend, and adds that the
giant Canada geese are still around the area in small groups.
Small flocks of snow geese are becoming more common in northeastern North
Dakota. Biologist Cami Dixon of the Devils Lake Wetland Management
District reports seeing snow geese in Towner and Ramsey counties, along
with a few more diving ducks and a few flocks of lesser Canada geese.
North-central parts of the state are also attracting more snow geese.
Biologist Gary Eslinger of J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge says
numbers of snow geese and lesser Canada geese have picked up in eastern
portions of the area, and he is starting to see some big rafts of diving
ducks on large lakes.
Hunters in central North Dakota are starting to notice a little more
movement. Audubon National Wildlife Refuge biologist Craig Hultberg says
the refuge was holding up to 20,000 ducks and geese at mid-week. He also
reports additional diving ducks on some of the larger ponds and some
green-winged teal in surrounding areas.
More ducks and geese have reached Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge.
Law enforcement officer Shawn Tripp says snow geese, lesser Canada geese
and white-fronted geese have arrived, along with about 100 tundra swans.
He adds most ducks are now in full plumage, making identification easier.
Waterfowl populations at Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge near Kenmare are
slowly beginning to increase at mid-week. Refuge manager Dan Severson says
duck numbers have grown to 10,000 and an influx of lesser Canada geese has
boosted that total to 2,000. The first white-fronted geese have arrived,
some 200 snow geese remain on the north end of the refuge, and tundra swan
numbers are holding at about 500.
Hunters continue to face very limited opportunities in Mountrail County.
Doug Leschisin of the Lostwood Wetland Management District some sloughs in
the eastern part of the county have water and ducks, but hunters will have
to scout. He reports very little waterfowl movement over the past week,
and says he hasn’t seen any snow geese yet.
Northwestern North Dakota hunters probably have fewer opportunities than
they did a week earlier. Refuge manager Tim Kessler of the Crosby Wetland
Management District reports scattered groups of giant Canada geese and
small bunches of local ducks can still be found in eastern Divide and
western Burke counties, but there has been no migration into the area. He
adds that the large numbers of sandhill cranes that arrived late last week
have moved on.
Very little change is being reported in waterfowl populations at Sand Lake
National Wildlife Refuge near Aberdeen, S.D. Biologist Bill Schultze says
there has been a small increase in canvasbacks, but most of the 40,000
ducks on the refuge are mallards and pintails. He adds that some lesser
Canada geese have been seen in the area, and the number of tundra swans on
the refuge has grown from 230 to 450. Schultze adds that wet weather this
week has continued to slow the corn harvest.
Sandhill crane hunters should note that whooping cranes have been reported
in North Dakota, migrating with sandhills. Although the only confirmed
sighting so far this fall has been in northwestern North Dakota, the
protected birds could show up almost anywhere in the state.
Some hunters are being asked if they will allow their harvested birds to be
tested for avian influenza. Employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and other federal and state agencies are taking swabs of harvested
waterfowl, although the highly pathogenic form of the disease has not yet
been found in North America. Sample testing of hunter-killed birds
supplements samples taken elsewhere from live wild birds. Hunters
observing unusual bird behavior are asked to contact the closest wildlife
Upland bird hunters are reminded they are restricted to nontoxic shot while
on waterfowl production areas.