More Duck Production in U.S. No Cause to Celebrate

As we've discussed here and here, the last two waterfowl breeding seasons were the first in which more ducks nested on the U.S. side of the prairie pothole region than in Canada. Unfortunately, this is no cause for Americans to celebrate. Yes, the Dakotas are producing excellent nesting habitat, but the numbers are also a sign of the extent to which the Canadian prairie is broken. A feature in the fall issue of Delta Waterfowl Magazine brings the situation to light. A few excerpts from the article that grabbed my attention include:

1. "This year, despite a wet, early spring in Canada, even more ducks settled in the U.S. than the Canadian prairies [than in 2009]. More mallards, gadwalls, shovelers, blue-winged teal and pintails—yes, even more pintails—settled south of the border."

2. "A lot of hunters are probably saying so what? I don't care where the ducks come from, as long as they come. The obvious answer is that the U.S. has been picking up the slack for Canada for years, but some of the programs responsible for those ducks are at risk. Who'll pick up the slack for the U.S. if those programs go away?"

3. "Restoring the glorious flights of yesteryear will be a tall order without prairie Canada's participation. After all, 55 percent of the land mass and 68 percent of the wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) are located north of the border. 'Hunters aren't likely to see fall flights like those of the 1950s, 1970s or even the 1990s until conservation leaders find ways to fix it,' Delta President Rob Olson predicted."

4. "The moral of the story is as obvious as the bill on a shoveler's face: Hunters and conservationists must find ways to protect the programs responsible for raising ducks on the U.S. side of the breeding grounds and implement similarly effective programs in Canada."

Why hasn't this issue gotten much attention? I think it boils down to the fact that U.S. production has been so good that it's masked Canada's dreadful output. However, if we don't address Canada's woes soon, the damage could be lasting.

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