The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced last Friday that it will continue to propose liberal season lengths and bag limits for the upcoming 2014-2015 late waterfowl seasons. The decision is based on the growing number of ducks across all major flyways and the availability of good habitat. In a recent survey of waterfowl in the north-central United States, Alaska, and south-central and northern Canada, USFWS counted about 49.2 million ducks. That number marks an eight percent increase from last year’s 45.6 million and 43 percent up from the long term average measured since 1955. Habitat has also largely either improved or stayed much the same from last year.
“It looks like another good waterfowl breeding year for a good portion of the prairies and the boreal forest,” Ducks Unlimited (DU) CEO Dale Hall said after USFWS released the survey results last month. “Precipitation in the form of snow and rain has provided sufficient water to fill important wetlands in key breeding habitats. We hope this will result in good production and another great flight of birds migrating in the fall.”
According to USFWS, the 2014 pond estimate for the north-central United States stands at 2.6 million, similar to last year’s count and still 53 percent above the long-term average taken since 1974.
“This spring, as has been the case for the past several years, saw abundant moisture across much of North America’s most important duck breeding areas. That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and, we hope, for hunting this fall. But we remain concerned with the continuing and escalating loss of nesting habitat in these areas,” warned DU Chief Biologist Scott Yaich. “Because ducks need water, wetlands to hold the water and upland habitats to successfully raise their young, the ongoing loss of grasslands and wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region will increasingly impact the number of ducks in the fall flight in the long-term.”
Still, hunters can look forward to a liberal hunting season. USFWS has proposed a framework that would set a season length of 60 days in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, a longer 74-day season in the Central Flyway, and a lengthy 107-day season in the Pacific Flyway. As always, individual states will set their own seasons from within these guidelines.
You can learn more about the status of waterfowl in 2014 by watching the below video:
More detailed information about bag limits can be found here.