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Fish & Game survey finds duck population decline in California

By Gary Bogue
Monday, June 1st, 2009 at 7:29 am in Ducks.

Male mallard by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, CA

A 2009 California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) waterfowl survey indicates that the number of mallards statewide remains steady, but the overall duck population has declined.

Conducted by DFG in late April and early May, the Waterfowl Breeding Survey estimates that there are 510,800 ducks of all species in the state. This is an 8 percent decrease from 2008, when DFG found 554,300 ducks.

Mallards, the most abundant duck in the survey, remain essentially unchanged in number — they found 302,000 mallards this year, up only slightly from the 297,100 found in 2008.

** However, the number of mallards is currently 18 percent below the long-term average for this species.

Pair of mallards by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, CA

“Preliminary age ratios in the mallard harvest indicated poor production in 2008,” said Shaun Oldenburger, a wildlife biologist with DFG’s Waterfowl Program. “We expect better waterfowl production this year, due to increased late spring precipitation that improved habitat conditions in some areas.”

The DFG survey covered the majority of the suitable waterfowl nesting habitat in the state, including wetland and agricultural habitats in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, and the Suisun and Napa-Sonoma marshes. Since 1955, DFG has conducted this survey with a fixed-wing aircraft; California Waterfowl, a cooperative partner, provides assistance by surveying a sample of transects by helicopter.

Male mallard by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, CA

Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is conducting its own breeding population surveys throughout Alaska, the north-central United States and Canada, all of which are primary breeding grounds for California’s wintering duck population. This data, along with the waterfowl population estimates from DFG and other states, is used by USFWS in setting regulation frameworks for outside dates, maximum season lengths and maximum bag limits in the Pacific Flyway.

The USFWS frameworks will be considered by the Fish and Game Commission when setting California waterfowl hunting regulations in August.

Mallard duckling by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, CA

I wonder if Mother Nature carries out similar surveys on her wildlife populations? /Gary

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3 Responses to “Fish & Game survey finds duck population decline in California”

  1. Sandy Says:

    I do not know if you are aware that the Mt.Diablo Unified School District is considering cutting it’s funding to the District Science Center housed in Markham Arboretum. That will save them $105,917 per year in two salaries and supplies. This program is for GATE identified students in grades 4 and 5. It is a gem. The teacher there is Barbara Wiegand. The students spend 4-5 days there tracking the weather, doing creek studies, going on bird identification walks, tree identification walks, learning hands on about the scientific method. They use microscopes, scales, binoculars, thermometers, and their brains in new ways. There are animals to study, measure, and take home if your parent approves. I could go on and on. Help! I do not want to see this program cut. I am afraid that once it is cut, it would be too difficult to bring back.

  2. Karen Says:

    Duck population down in California? Someone send the F and W folks to Bel Air apartments in San Ramon. We have 15 baby ducks this spring and that’s just on one side of the complex!

  3. Manny Says:

    This is slightly off topic, but with respect to waterfowl numbers — are there any reliable figures for how many ducks are injured but not retrieved each season by hunters? I had too many encounters last season which horrified me in terms of the numbers. I’m thinking it must be in the millions each season, when you consider that a few of the hunters I spoke lost multiple ducks per season, sometimes more than one per day. These ducks were not counted in their daily limits. I can’t believe that “conservation” allows this type of wanton disregard for waterfowl, particularly when the animals have to contend with so many other habitat and environmental assaults. Not to mention it’s simply cruel to inflict this type of mass injury on a population of birds.

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