Calif. duck populations increase for second year

According to a recent press release, the California Department of Fish and Game (DF&G) has completed its annual breeding pair survey and both mallard and total duck species have increased this year.

The breeding population of mallards increased from 318,000 in 2005 to 399,000 this year (a 26 percent increase), and total ducks (all species combined) increased from 615,000 to 649,000 (a 6 percent increase).

Mallards, for the first time in several years, are slightly above (7 percent) the long-term average.

"The proportion of young ducks in the harvest last year was very high, due to the excellent spring nesting conditions in 2005, so we expected an increase in the breeding population estimate this year," said Melanie Weaver, one of the DFG biologists that conduct the survey. "We also expect good production this year and a larger fall flight this year because of the late, abundant spring rains."

DF&G biologists and warden pilots have conducted this survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1955.

The California Waterfowl Association, under contract with DF&G for the past 13 years, also participates in the survey by sampling a portion of the transects using a helicopter. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, although surveyed areas include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the state.

These areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, the Suisun Marsh, and some coastal valleys.

The DF&G is waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service breeding population estimates from the primary breeding areas of waterfowl - Alaska, north-central United States and Canada.

The majority of California's wintering duck population originates from the federally surveyed areas.

Once DF&G receives the estimates and the federal frameworks for waterfowl hunting regulations, the DF&G will then make a recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission regarding this year's waterfowl hunting regulations.


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