PIERRE, S.D. – Game, Fish and Parks officials say South Dakota’s duck breeding population is down slightly from last year.
"This year’s waterfowl surveys flown by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May indicate that the duck breeding population in South Dakota was 1.6 million, down from last year’s 1.7 million and down 26 percent from the long-term average (LTA) of 2.2 million," said Game, Fish and Parks Waterfowl Biologist Spencer Vaa of Brookings. The LTA is a data set from 1959 – 2005.
Pond counts this year were down significantly (- 38 percent) from the LTA. However, Vaa notes that significant rainfall since the survey in early May has enhanced wetland and grassland habitats, and duck broods and re-nesting hens should fare quite well. "I have observed many duck broods across eastern South Dakota in July, and grassland cover looks great statewide," he said.
The resident population of giant Canada geese appears to have stabilized, as this year’s survey of 108,000 is virtually identical to last year and to the 10-year mean of 109,000.
South Dakota comprises only a small portion of the area surveyed during the spring Waterfowl Breeding Pair and Habitat Survey. In this vast area stretching across the Northcentral U.S., Canada and Alaska, the total duck population estimate in 2005 was 31.7 million, similar to last years 32.2 million and five percent below the LTA.
"Of special interest to South Dakota duck hunters are the status of Mid-continent mallards and the number of ponds in the Canadian prairies and parklands," Vaa noted. "The number of mallards in the traditional survey area and the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, along with the number of ponds in the Canadian prairies and parklands, are important factors in the selection of a regulatory package under Adaptive Harvest Management. This year there were approximately 7.5 million mallards compared to last years’ 8.3 million in the traditional survey area, plus the three lake states. On the other hand, pond numbers jumped from 2.5 million in 2004 to 3.9 million in 2005."
Vaa explained that final federal frameworks governing season length and bag limits will be known in late July, and South Dakota’s regular duck and goose hunting seasons will be set in early August.