Waterfowl hunters will likely see a better than average fall and winter season due to excellent production on breeding grounds.
“The outlook is pretty good, with population increases in Alaska, northern Alberta, Canada to our own parts of the state,” said Don Kraege, a state Fish and Wildlife waterfowl manager. “Every area that affects our flyway saw a big increase in bird production.”
“The mallard numbers are up significantly, and this coming hunting season has the potential to be very good,” added Kraege, who also points out that weather conditions affect each season’s success.
Some of the biggest boosts for migratory birds entering our flyway occurred in the northern Alberta area, where mallard production is up 72 percent, and the Alaska Yukon region, where production is up 50 percent.
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Last year, waterfowl hunters found the season from October through late January very challenging, mostly due to weather conditions that weren’t conducive to good success.
“Hunting success was down quite a bit, and that was due to the mild and stable weather conditions,” Kraege said. “We had a high pressure that stayed in place for most of November and December, and success was down 20 percent.”
On a less positive note, the preliminary estimate for the snow-geese population looks poor for this season. Brant also had low production due to a snowpack that covered most of the breeding grounds during the spring.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its preliminary report on North American breeding ducks and habitat, and the population is at record levels, with birds returning breeding grounds and finding a high number of ponds.
The breeding duck population is 49.2 million, beating the previous all-time high set in 2012 and is 8 percent ahead of the 2013 estimate.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comment and finalize the 2014-15 waterfowl hunting seasons in early August. The waterfowl hunting pamphlet will be available online by mid-August, and the hard copy should be ready by the end of August. Details: wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html
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 10.9 million, up from 10.3 last year and 10.6 in 2012, and 42 percent above the long-term average.
• Gadwall are at 3.8 million, up from 3.3 last year and 3.5 in 2012, and 102 percent above the long-term average.
• American wigeon are at 3.1 million, up from 2.6 last year and 2.1 in 2012, and 20 percent above long-term average.
• Green-winged teal are at 3.4 million, up from 3.0 last year and same as 3.4 in 2012, and 69 percent above the long-term average.
• Blue-winged teal are at 8.5 million, up from 7.7 last year and down from 9.2 in 2012, and 75 percent above the long-term average.
• Northern shovelers are at 5.3 million, up from 4.7 last year and 5.0 in 2012, 114 percent above the long-term average.
• Northern pintails are at 3.2 million, down from 3.3 last year and 3.3 in 2012, and 20 percent below the long-term average.
• Redheads are at 1.3 million, up from 1.20 last year and 1.26 in 2012, and 85 percent above the long-term average.
• Canvasbacks are at 685,300, down from 787,000 last year and 759,900 in 2012, and 18 percent above the long-term average.
• Scaup are at 4.6 million, up from 4.1 last year and down from 5.3 in 2012, and similar to the long-term average.