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Outdoors Almanac: Waterfowlers get mixed news
Doug Smith, Star Tribune
June 27, 2004 ONOT0627

There's good news and bad news for Minnesota waterfowl hunters.

The good news: Despite dry conditions earlier this spring, mallard numbers were stable or up slightly and blue-wing teal numbers were way up, according to the Department of Natural Resources spring breeding population survey.

"In a nutshell, duck numbers were good," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.

The bad news: An extremely late spring in Canada's far north likely was a disaster for goose production, especially Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese. Because that goose population is in jeopardy and migrates through Minnesota, hunters here could face new goose hunting restrictions, Cordts said.

Reducing the harvest of EPP geese could result in an unintended reduction in the harvest of the state's giant Canada geese, which are plentiful. That could increase crop depredations for farmers.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's mallard population was estimated at 375,000 ducks, up 34 percent from last year. But Cordts said the estimate was more variable this spring, meaning the apparent increase isn't statistically significant.

However, blue-winged teal were estimated at 353,000 -- up a significant 83 percent from 2003. The "other duck" category, including wood ducks, ringnecks and gadwalls, was up 13 percent to 280,000. The total state duck population, excluding scaup, was about 1 million.

A dry spring left pond counts down 19 percent, but then rains came, filling wetlands. That should help both waterfowl and waterfowl hunters.

"It certainly will help mallards that are re-nesting and will dramatically improve brood habitat," Cordts said. "I would suspect we'll have good numbers of ducks around on the opener."

N.D. duck numbers up

North Dakota's 2004 spring breeding duck index was the third highest on record, despite a 16 percent decrease in available water areas. The May survey showed an index of more than 4.3 million birds, 113 percent above the 1948-2003 average and 9 percent higher than last year.

Doug Smith is at [email protected].
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