USFWS survey finds more duck in nesting water

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — The annual pond and duck population surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May found 62 percent more nesting water than the average year and 35 percent more ducks in nesting areas.

Mississippi hunters are hoping that means with the abundant rainfall in the Midwest and resulting flooding will bring another rush to the south — ducks this winter.

Officials with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks say more ducks doesn’t always mean better duck hunting.

“This year’s population estimates and breeding habitat conditions are very encouraging, however, many factors contribute to a good hunting season for Mississippi’s duck hunters,” waterfowl biologist Houston Havens told The Clarion-Ledger.

“Fall and winter weather conditions play a large role in the migration of ducks. Also, Mississippi’s wetland habitat quality and distribution play a large role in hunting success. With high population estimates, it will be interesting to see if this year’s hunting success shows a similar increase,” he said.

The estimated total number of ducks rose 11 percent from last year to 45.6 million. Mallards and gadwalls, two important birds for state hunters, were both up 9 percent. Significant increases of pintail and blue-winged teal are also good news.

Eight of the 10 most popular duck species increased over 2010 and the same number are above the long-term average. Seven of the 10 are more than 20 percent above the 50-year average.

Under management guidelines, the USF&WS is expected to soon announce liberal duck season frameworks for the upcoming season, meaning a 60-day season with a 6-duck limit.