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Field reports: Ducks bountiful for upcoming hunting seasons
Published: Mon, 28-Aug-2017

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The Spokesman-Review Sun., Aug. 27, 2017, 4:44 a.m.

HUNTING – Just as Washington was flush with water this spring, hunters can expect a bounty of local ducks when seasons open this fall.

Overall water availability in Washington was the among wettest seen in 20 years according to reports compiled from state wildlife areas managed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Abundant water provided breeding habitat particularly through the Potholes and Channeled Scablands region, where potholes and ponds were plentiful.

Reservoirs throughout eastern Washington were at or above 100 percent capacity with associated flooding of fields and pastures, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2017 waterfowl surveys report. In early May, significant snowmelt runoff was still occurring throughout the Okanogan and Northeast Highlands.

The estimate for total ducks in Washington, 242,200, was 99 percent above the 2016 estimate and 44 percent above the long-term average of 167,400. The mallard estimate in Washington was 103,400 – 72 percent higher than last year and 29 percent above the long-term average.

Under generally good conditions for waterfowl, federal wildlife officials reported 47.3 million ducks this spring in North America, the fifth-highest total on record.

The overall duck estimate is 2 percent below 2016 but 34 percent above the long-term average, according to the 2017 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey.

Duck and goose numbers have been consistently high in the past decade, including a record 49.5 million ducks in 2015.

Although survey data and hunting experiences don’t always agree, many U.S. waterfowl hunters claim the modern conditions are “the good old days” with high bag limits and long seasons.

Federal, provincial and state agencies conduct aerial surveys each spring to estimate the size of breeding waterfowl populations and to evaluate conditions in principal breeding habitats.

The continental survey has been conducted annually since 1955 and provides the single best picture of waterfowl populations.

The 2017 total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) was 6.1 million, 22 percent above last year and 17 percent higher than the long-term average.

North Dakota was a notable exception to the generally good reports from across North America. Surveys in the Roughrider State, which is suffering from drought, showed an 8 percent drop in duck production, according to a mid-July waterfowl assessment.

Mallards were once again the most abundant species in North America, followed by blue-winged teal. ... ful-for-upcoming-hunting/

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