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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Prairies Under Siege: Ducks, Habitat Conservation & Predators

A closer look at large-scale predator-control programs reveals that they are counterproductive to the long-term benefits of waterfowl and waterfowl hunters
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  • A waterfowl nest destroyed by predators in the Prairie Pothole Region.
    photo by Dr. Scott Stephens, DU
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by Chuck Petrie

People often ask why Ducks Unlimited does not endorse predator control as a means of increasing duck production. After all, predator control is effective, isn't it? Haven't studies proved that controlling predators such as foxes, raccoons, and skunks can significantly increase waterfowl nest success? If DU is concerned about the future of waterfowl and waterfowling, why doesn't it advocate and practice predator control on a large scale across the ducks' primary breeding grounds?

The truth is that Ducks Unlimited is not always against predator control. DU's biologists and others have long known that controlling waterfowl predators on relatively small, specific problem areas can be effective —and, in fact, have practiced short-term predator control on small pieces of habitat. However, working on small pieces can be expected to yield small results in the big picture. DU and other wildlife management leaders have learned from those experiences and re-evaluated what they must do to most effectively assure the long-term health of waterfowl populations across North America (see "Mississippi Flyway Council Statement and Others' Positions on Predator Removal" on page 6). As a result, we have remained focused on DU's original "Singleness of Purpose"—that of securing and restoring the habitat base upon which waterfowl depend. And we have concluded that wide-scale predator control to increase duck populations is an ineffective approach that would be harmful to long-term waterfowl conservation and the hunters who enjoy the sport of waterfowling.

DU's staff and Boards of Directors in the United States, Canada, and Mexico recently looked very critically at how to best serve waterfowl for the future through a comprehensive strategic planning initiative that was led by DU President John Tomke and DU Executive Vice President Don Young. One outcome of that huge task was to ensure that all three of DU's operations in North America shared a common mission, which reaffirms that "Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people."

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