Waterfowl hunters should see an average fall and winter season despite a predicted reduced population.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its preliminary report on North American breeding ducks and habitat, and the population is about 45.6 million in contrast to 48.6 million last year.
That figure is also 33 percent above the 1955 to 2010 long-term average.
Locally, waterfowl numbers are going to be down compared to recent seasons, judging by early surveys in northern breeding grounds.
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“Our survey count for mallards is down 17 percent,” said Don Kraege, a state Fish and Wildlife waterfowl manager. “Drier weather conditions brought down the population, and overall there were less birds counted in the survey.”
It wasn’t just the flyway in Washington, Kraege points out, but Oregon, California and Alaska are all down. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife duck production outlook said wetland conditions were generally good in Washington and Oregon.
“I know this sounds bad, but when you look at the long-term waterfowl numbers this will be an average season (in 2013-14),” Kraege said. “We’ve had some pretty good seasons in past years, and you can’t really compare it to the upcoming season.”
The big question is the snow-geese population.
“We’ve had no surveys on Wrangell Island for snow geese,” Kraege said. “We’re trying to get Russian biologists to start up their surveys again. We should get back on track, but that wouldn’t be until next year.”
In general the snow-geese population has done really well, and the trend should continue to be good.
The local-breeding western Canada geese population looks good, and Kraege said state Fish and Wildlife plans to reinstate a two-day hunt in September like last year.
Waterfowl hunters found very good opportunities last season from October through late January.
“We had a decent number of storms, which translated into a good hunting season,” Kraege said.
By the numbers
Highlights from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey on population estimates from the United States, northern Canada and Alaska:
• Mallards are at 10.3 million, down from 10.6 last year, but a 36 percent increase over the long-term average.
• Gadwall are 3.3 million, down from 3.5, but 80 percent above the long-term average.
• American wigeon are 2.6 million, up from 2.1, and just a 2 percent increase to the long-term average.
• Green-winged teal are 3.0 million, down from 3.4, and still 50 percent above the long-term average.
• Blue-winged teal are 7.7 million, down from 9.2 million.
• Northern shovelers are 4.7 million, down from 5.0 last year, but 96 percent above the long-term average.
• Northern pintails are 3.3 million, and slightly down from 3.3 last year and 17 percent below the long-term average.
• Redhead are relatively unchanged from last year, and 76 percent above the long-term average.
• Canvasback are 787,000 and is up from 760,000 last year and 37 percent above the long-term average
• Scaup sre 4.1 million, and down from 5.2 last year and 17 percent below the long-term average.
State Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comment and finalize 2013-14 waterfowl-hunting seasons Aug. 2-3 in Olympia. The waterfowl-hunting pamphlet will be available online by mid-August, and the hard-copy pamphlet should be ready by the end of August. Details: wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.