U.S. duck population increases

Saturday, August 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 10, 2009

*CORRECTION: Dave Graber is a waterfowl biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. An earlier version of this story misidentified him.

COLUMBIA — Duck hunters of mid-Missouri could enjoy good hunting this season because of the growth in the North American duck population. Recent estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009 say the national breeding population has reached 42 million, 13 percent more from the previous year and 25 percent higher than 1955.

Ducks must find favorable nesting conditions in Canada and the northern U.S. for high numbers migrating south during the fall, said Dave Graber *, a waterfowl biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.  

The regions particularly of interest to mid-Missouri are the prairie pothole region of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as other north-central states.

An increase in the population can be attributed to more rainwater in Canada, Paul McKenzie of the Fish and Wildlife Service said. This adds better habitats for nesting for the ducks, which eventually head south to Missouri.

Pond numbers are up to 45 percent from 31 percent in the northern regions of the continent in recent years, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Because everything has to be just right for a growth in breeding, Graber described it as a "Goldilocks scenario" in a news release. To get an increase in population, a perfect mixture is required: cold weather and the right amount of rain in the north.

"With continued assistance from the weather, this could be a season to remember," Graber said in the release.

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