CA DFG Announces 2009 Waterfowl Population Estimates

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CA DFG Announces 2009 Waterfowl Population EstimatesA 2009 Department of Fish and Game (DFG) waterfowl survey indicates that the number of mallards statewide remains steady, but the overall duck population has declined.

Conducted by DFG in late April and early May, the Waterfowl Breeding Survey estimates that there are 510,800 ducks of all species in the state. This is an eight percent decrease from 2008, when DFG found 554,300 ducks. Mallards, the most abundant duck in the survey, remain essentially unchanged in number – DFG found 302,000 mallards this year, up only slightly from the 297,100 found in 2008. However, the number of mallards is currently 18 percent below the long-term average for this species.

“Preliminary age ratios in the mallard harvest indicated poor production in 2008,” said Shaun Oldenburger, a wildlife biologist with DFG’s Waterfowl Program. “We expect better waterfowl production this year, due to increased late spring precipitation that improved habitat conditions in some areas.”

The DFG survey covered the majority of the suitable waterfowl nesting habitat in the state, including wetland and agricultural habitats in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, and the Suisun and Napa-Sonoma marshes. Since 1955, DFG has conducted this survey with a fixed-wing aircraft; California Waterfowl, a cooperative partner, provides assistance by surveying a sample of transects by helicopter.

Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is conducting its own breeding population surveys throughout Alaska, the north-central United States and Canada, all of which are primary breeding grounds for California’s wintering duck population. This data, along with the waterfowl population estimates from DFG and other states, is used by USFWS in setting regulation frameworks for outside dates, maximum season lengths and maximum bag limits in the Pacific Flyway.

The USFWS frameworks will be considered by the Fish and Game Commission when setting California waterfowl hunting regulations in August.