Duck numbers on the rise

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Whether living on a flyway or in between, Ohio waterfowl hunters ought to be dancing high and fast after seeing the recently published predictions of some of the highest duck numbers seen in a long time.

In fact, the good old days may be coming soon, real soon.

Survey shows

Ducks Unlimited, the nation’s leading waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization, has compiled the most scientifically based estimates of species-specific duck numbers, something it does every year. In most cases, duck numbers are higher than last year, a recent annual trend that bodes well for those who follow such things.

Big gainers, according to the DU report, were mallards, green-winged teal and canvasbacks. Big losers were northern pintail, northern shovelers and bluebills (scaup).

A decade ago

Mallards are the most sought-after ducks by hunters everywhere. Just a decade ago, it was predicted that because mallard numbers were slipping and shoveler numbers were increasing that shovelers would be the next mallards. That never really materialized. After some lean years, mallards seem to be holding their own when it comes to successful reproduction.

Mallards on the rise

There are an estimated 49.5 million nesting ducks this year, a whopping 43 percent above the 1955-2014 long-term average. Green winged teal show the highest long-term increases. Other long-term gainers include mallards (51 percent), redheads (71 percent), northern shovelers (75 percent), blue winged teal (7 percent) and canvasbacks (30 percent).

Ducks losing ground include scaup (-13 percent), pintails (-24 percent) and black ducks (-13 percent).

Mallards — numbering about 25 percent of the entire duck count — are the indicator though. It’s a good year for ducks.

Conservation key

On the downside, each year brings a significant loss of nesting habitat. In fact, by actual count, northern U.S ponds where ducks usually breed were down by over 10 percent. Duck nesting numbers have been accurately kept since the 1950s. They are the product of surveys conducted in May and June by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service, as well as DU biologists.

DU Chief Executive Officer Dale Hall cautions hunters and other conservationists to be especially concerned with the rapid shrinking of prairie potholes and Conservation Reserve Program grasslands.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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