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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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Habitat conservation vs. predator control

  • Predator control cannot result in meaningful increases in duck numbers or birds in the bag and threatens to undermine the broad coalition of public support on which modern waterfowl conservation depends.
  • Dollars diverted to killing predators are dollars lost to habitat conservation. In business terminology, this is known as opportunity cost. Doing one thing means not doing something else. Spending scarce habitat dollars on predator control will assure that more critical habitat will be lost.
  • Nearly every dollar spent on habitat for waterfowl is matched by special funds such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund (NAWCF), which is set aside by Congress for habitat work. Many other partners also add to the pot, and it is not unusual to have dollars from DU and other sources matched three or four times to do even more habitat conservation in the highest priority areas. Dollars diverted to predator control are not matchable, and therefore not eligible to leverage NAWCF funds or other dollar-matching habitat funds because of the lack of partners who see the merit in such short-term practices.
  • On a local scale, predator control can provide immediate benefits to a few waterfowl, but it does not contribute to the long-term security of waterfowl habitat and waterfowl abundance on a continental or even regional scale.
  • Predator control provides no lasting impact on waterfowl numbers because as predators are removed, those individuals are quickly replaced or other predator populations increase.
  • Predators must be removed every year, simply to temporarily suppress their numbers, and that is not a practical or sustainable option over large areas or over the long term.
  • Habitat conservation results in incremental gains each and every year. The core challenge is to improve and sustain the productive capability of the "Duck Factory" over the long term.
  • During drought years, the breeding effort in the prairie duck factory effectively shuts down and populations decline because ducks nest very sparingly across vast areas of dry landscape. If few ducks are nesting, even predator control cannot improve duck-breeding success enough to result in meaningful improvements in continental duck populations. Waterfowlers simply have to pull in their belts during those years as they have during all of the last century and beyond. What is critical is that the nesting habitat base remains secure so that ducks can flourish again when water returns to the breeding grounds.
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