NOT MUCH WATERFOWL MOVEMENT YET, SAYS USFWS

Waterfowl hunters are hoping forecast cold temperatures and snow will bring more birds into the state, but that doesn’t seem to be the case yet. According to the weekly report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, waterfowl numbers seem to be down in many parts of North Dakota.

In northeastern North Dakota, many of the local ducks have grouped together and few migrants have arrived, so hunters will have to do their scouting. Biologist Cami Dixon of the Devils Lake Wetland Management District reports seeing fewer mallards and more diving ducks this week. She adds that a few more migrant Canada geese have arrived, but there are no large numbers of snow geese yet.

Waterfowl numbers have dropped at Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, north of Jamestown. Biologist Paulette Scherr says the duck population has dipped to 20,000, with about half of them mallards and the rest a good mix including 1,500 diving ducks. The Refuge is also holding 2,000 Canada geese and 300 tundra swans. Some small flocks of both migrant and resident Canada geese are being seen in the surrounding area, with larger wetlands holding good numbers of diving ducks.

Some migrant ducks are expected to arrive in southeastern North Dakota after the cold front pushes through, but teal and local birds are moving out. Biologist Kristine Askerooth of Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge says the area still has good pockets of ducks and Canada geese, but hunters will have to work harder. She reports the bean harvest is progressing rapidly, and corn harvesting has started.

East-central North Dakota’s duck population is on the increase. Wetland manager Ed Meendering of the Valley City Wetland Management District says he has seen quite a few more mallards this week, plus an increase in Canada geese. On the other hand, Meendering says he has not yet seen any migrant Canada geese, snow geese or sandhill cranes.

Waterfowl populations seem to be holding steady in southeast-central North Dakota. Mick Erickson of the Kulm Wetland Management District says the area still has good numbers of local mallards and gadwalls, and larger flocks of resident Canada geese are being reported. However, most teal have departed. He reports the best water conditions are in eastern Logan and McIntosh counties.

More diving ducks have moved into Stutsman and Wells counties. Chase Lake Wetland Management District manager Tomi Buskness reports some of the local ducks have moved out, but there are still some mallards, Canada geese and sandhill cranes in the area.

Cold temperatures have iced over many wetlands and driven much of the waterfowl out of northwestern North Dakota. Refuge manager Tim Kessler of the Crosby Wetland Management District says several days of warmer weather will be needed to open up the wetlands. He reports there are lots of ducks and geese remaining in southern Saskatchewan.

Many of Mountrail County’s remaining small wetlands have iced over and local ducks have moved on. However, operations specialist Chad Zorn of Lostwood Wetland Management District says some migrant mallards in flocks of 20-40 birds appear to have moved in. He reports seeing very few snow geese.

More waterfowl have reached Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge near Kenmare. Manager Dan Severson says the Refuge is holding 1,500 snow geese, about 2,500 Canada geese and 20,000 ducks. Most of the snow geese are on the north end of the Refuge, the Canada geese are a mixture of residents and migrants, and mallards make up about half the duck numbers, with local gadwalls, teal and pintails well represented. Severson says he is seeing about 900 tundra swans, a much higher number than normal. He cautions that cold weather could quickly and drastically change the situation.

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge near Minot was holding about 20,000 ducks over the weekend. Deputy refuge manager Tom Pabian says the ducks are scattered, but most are concentrated on the north end. The Refuge is also holding about 2,000 Canada geese, but only a few small flocks of snow geese. Pabian says hunters will need to do some driving to find the western Ward County wetlands holding water, because many of them have ducks.

A few more ducks have reached J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge in north-central North Dakota. Project leader Tedd Gutzke believes the Refuge is holding about 10,000 mallards, but only about 500 snow geese in groups of 25-50 on the north end. Also, some 2,000 Canada geese are scattered throughout the Refuge. Gutzke reports the five-county area is dry, with Rolette and northern Pierce counties offering the best water conditions. He says hunters should be able to find ducks where there is water.

Up to 5,000 Canada geese and 3,000 ducks are using Audubon National Wildlife Refuge near Coleharbor. Wetland manager Mike Goos reports a significant migration of sandhill cranes last weekend and early this week. He has also observed a gradual increase in the number of migrant Canada geese. In the surrounding areas, hunters will need to scout, as ducks have been hard to find. He believes the forecast cold temperatures could bring in more migrant Canada geese and ice over many wetlands, further concentrating waterfowl.

Duck hunters in Burleigh, Kidder and Emmons counties will probably notice the exodus of birds that has taken place over the past week. Biologist Gregg Knutsen of Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge reports seeing many empty wetlands at mid-week. He says the Refuge is holding a modest concentration of ducks, mostly shovelers and gadwalls. Knutsen adds the Refuge’s sandhill crane population has dropped to 2,500, and Canada goose numbers are at about 1,500.

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern South Dakota has recorded increases in the numbers of Canada geese and ducks. The Refuge is holding 2,000 Canada geese and 60,000 ducks. Biologist Bill Schultze says mallard and green-winged teal populations are up, and ruddy ducks and lesser scaup are also showing up. He reports the area’s corn harvest is just beginning, but many farmers have completed their soybean harvest.

Field checks continue to find violations of the "hunter’s choice"bag limit. The daily limit is five ducks, with these restrictions: two scaup, two redhead and two wood duck; and only one from the following group: hen mallard, pintail and canvasback. Officers say the best way for hunters to avoid "mistakes" is to make positive identification of their target before pulling the trigger.

In addition, some hunters have not had the required "duck stamp" in their possession, and others are failing to sign the stamp.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit the Service’s website at www.fws.gov