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DU Canada Habitat Report - July 2011

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Western Boreal Forest

Conditions are good overall in the Yukon. Ponds were full this spring, and runoff was high in late May due due to snow melt.
In the Northwest Territories (NWT), spring has generally been dry. Yellowknife received lower-than-normal precipitation in May and June, while amounts in Norman Wells were normal.

Forest fires forced people from towns in northern Alberta, but rains passed through in June, which brought some relief. Most fires are now under control, but the region remains relatively dry. However, because of the more permanent nature of boreal wetlands, there is still habitat available to breeding ducks. In fact, many broods have been reported throughout the area, so fair to average production is likely despite the dry conditions.

Unlike the southern half of the province, northern Saskatchewan has been relatively dry, although recent precipitation has helped. Ponds and creeks have been in good shape thanks to favourable conditions this winter and last year.

In northern Manitoba, local rain conditions have been favorable over the spring and early summer period. However, the Saskatchewan River Delta (SRD) area has only received roughly 70 percent of its normal precipitation between March and June. Recent flooding on the Saskatchewan River is a result of the record wet period between April and October of 2010, as well as wet spring conditions across the watershed. Habitat conditions remain moderate overall in the SRD. Anecdotally, fewer broods have been observed than usual. However, this may be because they are dispersed over the additional habitat that was created by flooding.

Estimates from the USFWS/CWS survey vary across the region. In the survey stratum that includes the Yukon, total duck breeding populations have decreased by 32 percent since the last survey, but are similar to the long-term average (1955-2010; hereafter LTA).

Populations of common species are lower this year than last, but only northern pintails and canvasbacks are significantly below their respective LTAs.

In Boreal portions of Alberta, British Columbia, and the NWT, total duck populations are down by 19 per cent since 2010, with blue-winged teals, northern pintails, and northern shovelers declining by at least 48 percent. This is likely because many birds taking advantage of the excellent conditions in the southern Prairie provinces and northern Great Plains states, and are settling in the Prairie Pothole Region rather than migrating further north. In Boreal regions of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba (and Western Ontario), 2011 total duck populations are 13 percent above 2010 numbers, with scaup and wigeon both showing increases from last year.

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