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Duck numbers reach record high levels in North America

By JIM MATTHEWS North American duck populations are at the highest level recorded since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began surveys in 1955. The 2014 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report was released Wednesday this past week, and the federal agency says that nearly 50 million ducks will be moving down this country’s four flyways this fall. This annual survey encompasses more than 2 million square miles of waterfowl habitat across Alaska, eastern and central Canada, and the northern tier states east of the Rocky Mountains in the lower 48. The preliminary estimate for the total duck population is 49.2 million ducks, an eight percent increase over last year’s 45.6 million bird-estimate and higher than the previous record set in 2012 of 48.6 million birds. The 2014 survey is also 43 percent above the long term average. The mallard population, America’s most populous duck, was estimated to be 10.9 million birds, very similar to last year’s 10.4 million estimate. Only northern pintail and scaup remain below their long-term averages, while wigeon numbers jumped significantly this year to rise above their long-term average since 1997. Most species numbers are very similar to their 2013 estimates. Most of the population growth was attributed to above average precipitation in the nesting regions and a high number of ponds where most nesting takes place. The survey, which also looks at habitat not just bird numbers, reported 7.2 million ponds in the survey areas, a 40 percent increase in the long-term average for the May and June surveys. Federal legislation would restore hatchery funding Federal legislation to restore funding for federal fish hatcheries and redirect their uses back to recreational fishing programs has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Paul Gosar (R-Arizona). The bill came as a direct result of the closure of the trout portion of the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery. Gosar said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “arbitrarily changed the priorities for five” of the hatchery program categories and announced its intent to close hatcheries dedicated to recreational fishing. The change was announced in a 2013 report and Willow Beach was one of the targeted facilities. USFWS staff said the recreational hatchery closures were necessary because of sequester cuts, but none of the programs related to non-game or endangered species were also cut. Gosar said this didn’t make any economic sense because only the recreational hatchery program was essentially profitable. He cited one hatchery program in Arkansas and Oklahoma pumped $95 back into the economy for every dollar spent. At Willow Beach, the impact on the Arizona’s Mohave County (adjacent to Willow Beach and all along the Colorado River where the plants were made) was $75 million annually because of the recreational trout program. The tax revenue alone would more than pay for the Willow Beach operation. Across the country the USFWS says that every dollar invested in hatcheries brings $28 back into the economy. Mojave National Preserve youth Upland game hunt set for Oct 4-5 Sixty youths will be mentored in quail hunting during a special drawing-only hunt and camp-out hosted by the staff of the Mojave National Preserve and Water for Wildlife, a Mojave Desert conservation group. The weekend hunt is the opening weekend of the special youth-only season for quail and chukar in the Preserve. The hunt will include in-the-field mentors for hunting, instruction in hunting and bird cleaning, camping, and campfire story telling. All meals are provided for the kids along. Last’s year event had 60 youths with 90 on the waiting list. Information on how to apply for this first-come, first-serve hunt is on the Mojave National Preserve website at Go to “hunting” and then “youth quail hunt.” Anyone wishing to volunteer and donate, should contact Cliff McDonald with Water for Wildlife at BRIEFLY NOTED: In spite of the long-term decline in the dove population in the Western Management Unit, the new management strategy adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might allow for an increase in the mourning dove limit to 15 (up from 10) for the 2014 season in California and other Western states. More on this as it develops…. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is already warning its hunters that non-lead ammunition is likely to be difficult to find on dealer’s shelves this fall. Unlike California, Arizona has not banned non-lead ammunition in hunting zones where condors live in that state. Instead, it has encouraged voluntary measures to reduce the lead available to the bird birds and they have compliance rates on par with California, which banned lead. Except in the most popular calibers, non-lead ammunition has been extremely difficult to find anywhere, and non-lead rimfire ammunition is generally not available. Will the California Department of Fish and Wildlife be addressing this while they move forward to ban lead for all hunting?

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