Duck populations decreased this year, the (California) Department of Fish and Gameâ€™s (DFG) annual waterfowl breeding population survey shows.
The breeding population of mallards decreased 24 percent, from 388,300 in 2007 to 297,100 this year. The total population of all duck species decreased from 627,600 to 554,000, which is a 12 percent decrease. Mallards, the most abundant duck in the survey, are 20 percent below their long-term average of 370,300. The status of breeding waterfowl in California is one consideration in the establishment of the annual waterfowl hunting regulations.
â€œProduction of ducklings in 2007 was below average, so DFG expected to see a decrease in the mallard breeding population in California,â€ said Shaun Oldenburger, a wildlife biologist with the Waterfowl Program. â€œLower than average precipitation in the Central Valley over the past two years has contributed greatly to this decline.â€
DFG biologists and warden pilots have conducted this survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1955. The California Waterfowl Association, a contractual partner, assists DFG by surveying a sample of transects by helicopter. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, although surveyed areas include the majority of the suitable waterfowl nesting habitat in the state. These areas include wetland and agricultural habitats in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, Suisun Marsh, and Napa-Sonoma Marshes.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is conducting breeding population surveys of the primary breeding regions for waterfowl - Alaska, the north-central United States and Canada. The majority of Californiaâ€™s wintering duck population originates from areas surveyed by USFWS. Preliminary information indicates habitat conditions are below average in the prairie region of Canada and the U.S. Once DFG receives the estimates and the federal frameworks for waterfowl hunting regulations, it will then make a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission regarding this yearâ€™s waterfowl hunting regulations.