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2012 Waterfowl Forecast

Another large fall flight is expected after waterfowl break more records on the breeding grounds
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"Last year's unprecedented wetland conditions on the prairies and record duck population set the stage for this year's impressive survey results," says DU Chief Scientist Dale Humburg. "It's certainly encouraging to see many ducks at or near historic highs, but not all the news in this year's survey was good. American wigeon and pintails remained below their long-term averages, and we remain concerned about the loss of habitat that supports waterfowl populations."  

The USFWS reports that this year's estimate of 5.5 million May ponds declined 32 percent from last year's estimate of 8.1 million ponds.

However, the total May pond count, which is used by waterfowl managers as a measure for wetland abundance on the prairies, remained 9 percent above the long-term average. 

"In light of large waterfowl populations and carryover habitat from 2011, we should see another strong fall flight this year," Humburg says. "It's important to remember, however, that large waterfowl populations don't necessarily guarantee great hunting everywhere in the fall. Many variables can influence hunting success more than the size of the fall flight. For example, large areas of the nation are experiencing drought, which could affect the availability of food and wetland habitat for waterfowl. Other unusual weather events, like unseasonably mild temperatures and below-average snowfall, could also affect the timing of the migration and the distribution of waterfowl this season."

May pond counts and waterfowl breeding population estimates are compiled during extensive air and ground surveys conducted by the USFWS, Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), state and provincial wildlife agencies, and other partners. These surveys are essential to managing waterfowl populations and setting annual hunting regulations. The following report provides an overview of the status of habitat conditions and waterfowl populations across key breeding areas in the United States and Canada

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