North American duck numbers set another record

I haven’t seen the official news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but Ducks Unlimited issued a news release this morning citing results from the spring waterfowl survey conducted by the U.S. and Canadian wildlife services.

duckNumbersWeb2Despite the ongoing dire predictions about loss of grasslands, wetlands and other habitat, breeding duck numbers again are at record levels —  49.5 million, which is 51 percent above the long-term average and higher than last year’s previous record of 49.2 million birds, the USFWS said in its “2015 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations” report.

Here’s what Ducks Unlimited had to say about the news:

“We are fortunate to see continued high overall duck populations in North America’s breeding areas this year,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “Though conditions were dry in some important habitats, we had large numbers of birds returning this spring and good conditions in the boreal forest and other areas of Canada. It looks like some typical prairie nesters skipped over the U.S. prairies and took advantage of good conditions farther north. This is an important reminder about the critical need for maintaining abundant and high-quality habitat across the continent. The boreal forest, especially, can provide important habitat when the prairies are dry. But the boreal is under increasing threats from resource extraction.”

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the prairies and the boreal forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2015 breeding population survey were drier than last year. Total pond counts for the U.S. and Canada combined were 6.3 million, which is 12 percent below the 2014 estimate of 7.2 million and 21 percent above the long-term average.

“An early spring balanced with poorer habitat conditions was apparent in this year’s survey,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “In addition to reduced precipitation over the winter and early spring, we have lost critical nesting habitat with the decrease in Conservation Reserve Program lands and continuing conversion of habitat to agricultural production across the U.S. prairies. Fortunately, these conditions had minimal impacts on this year’s overall breeding bird numbers, but hunters should be concerned about these trends and what they might mean in future years. We have experienced good moisture in the prairies and liberal bag limits for more than two decades. Continuing habitat losses and drier conditions have the potential to change this scenario in the future.”

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting season dates and bag limits. The four flyway councils and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations Committee will meet in late July to recommend the season structure and bag limits for 2015-16. Individual states will make their specific selections within a federal framework of season length, bag limits and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates.

Species estimates are:

Mallards: 11.6 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimate and 51% above the long-term average.
Gadwall: 3.8 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimate and 100% above the long-term average.
American wigeon: 3.0 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimate and 17% above the long-term average.
Green-winged teal: 4.1 million, which is 19% above the 2014 estimate and 98% above the long-term average.
Blue-winged teal: 8.5 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimate and 73% above the long-term average.
Northern shovelers: 4.4 million, which 17% below the 2014 estimate and 75% above the long-term average.
Northern pintails: 3.0 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimates and 24% below the long-term average.
Redheads: 1.2 million, which is similar to their 2014 estimate and 71% above the long-term average.
Canvasbacks: 0.76 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimate and 30% above the
long-term average.
Scaup: 4.4 million, which is similar to the 2014 estimate and 13% below the long-term average.
Black ducks (Eastern Survey Area): 541,000, which is 11% below the 2014 estimate and 13% below the long-term average.

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at .

DNR names new assistant manager at Hayes Lake State Park

Hayes Lake State Park in northwest Minnesota has a new assistant manager, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

Jack Pellinen began his new job June 19 and has been with the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division since 2002.

Hayes Lake State Park offers a variety of recreational options. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Hayes Lake State Park offers a variety of recreational options. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Hayes Lake State Park is located in southern Roseau County on the edge of Beltrami Island State Forest.

Pellinen began his career as a mine interpreter and parks worker at Soudan Underground Mine State Park in northeast Minnesota. He became a parks worker at Bear Head Lake State Park nearly Ely, Minn., in 2008, and then the administrative specialist. He went on to work as a park specialist at Temperance River, Tettegouche, and George H. Crosby-Manitou state parks in 2013 and 2014.

Most recently, Pellinen worked as the assistant park manager at McCarthy Beach State Park.

“We are excited to have Jack with us to help manage the Northwest Region Parks and Trails operations,” said Allen Lego, manager of Lake Bronson State Park in Kittson County, which has handled management of Hayes Lake. “He brings diverse experiences to our team and will be a big asset and great addition.”

Pellinen holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Bemidji State University. He enjoys sailing, blacksmithing, reading and playing music.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work at Hayes Lake State Park. It’s a position I’ve been working hard to obtain,” Pellinen said in a news release. “The park offers fantastic recreation opportunities and a great variety of camping options. There’s something for everyone here.”

Pellinen adds he is looking forward to learning more about the horse and ATV trails that connect to Beltrami Island State Forest via the Bemis Hill recreation area.

Minnesota grouse counts similar to last year

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said today that ruffed grouse drumming counts are similar to last year across the state.

Spring ruffed grouse counts in Minnesota are similar to last year, the Department of Natural Resources reported Monday.

That’s either good news or bad news depending on your perspective, but based on what friends and I encountered during last fall’s grouse hunting season, “similar to last year” doesn’t sound half bad.

In a news release, the DNR said this year’s survey results for ruffed grouse showed no statistical change in all regions of the state. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota, counts were 1.3 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.0 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.7 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.4 drums per stop.

Sharptail counts also were similar to last year, with this year’s survey tallying a statewide average of 9.8 grouse per lek, or dancing ground, which is similar to the long-term average since 1980.

The DNR’s 2015 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online at