The 2015 Wisconsin spring waterfowl breeding population survey indicates quality waterfowl production, despite dry conditions experienced during the survey. For all species, population counts showed no significant change from estimates compared to last year.
This survey information, along with two other primary sources of information regarding yearly waterfowl breeding conditions, is used to determine the fall season structure for Wisconsin. The full survey report can be found by searching the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "waterfowl management."
With considerable precipitation in May, wetland conditions improved just in time for brood rearing, and Wisconsin is expected to provide good duck production in 2015.
"In 2015, spring weather came much earlier than the previous two years, which is normally a good sign for breeding waterfowl," said Kent Van Horn, DNR waterfowl biologist. "A large proportion of ducks harvested in Wisconsin are raised in Wisconsin, although there are differences among species."
A relatively mild winter in 2014-15, combined with below normal rainfall in March and April, led to dry wetland conditions throughout Wisconsin. Counts indicated drier conditions than in 2014 in all regions. According to Van Horn, considerable rainfall in May following the survey has helped Wisconsin remain at average wetland conditions for the year during the important brood-rearing period.
The 2015 total Wisconsin total breeding duck population estimate of 372,840 is similar to 2014, but 16 percent below the long-term (42-year) average. None of the species-specific population estimates for the three top breeding ducks in Wisconsin (mallard, blue-winged teal and wood duck) were significantly different compared to 2014.
"Each duck species population estimates normally varies from year to year so I urge hunters and other conservationists to interpret the information on these migratory bird populations over several years and in the continental context," Van Horn said. "For example, the blue-winged teal breeding population in Wisconsin is lower than historic levels, but continental estimates the last few years have reached all-time highs, and two-thirds of Wisconsin regular duck season blue-winged teal harvest comes from out of state."
Roughly 70 percent of mallard harvest in Wisconsin is supported by locally hatched ducks, and the average mallard population in the last few years has been lower than the previous decade. This observation suggests that continued efforts aimed at controlling mallard harvest impacts and support for grassland nesting habitat conservation are important to the future of Wisconsin's local mallard population.
Canada goose population estimates similar to 2014
Wisconsin Canada goose harvest is supported by Canada geese breeding in northern Ontario, as well as those breeding locally in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin breeding estimate for Canada geese is similar to 2014 and consistent with a stable population of roughly 120,000. The preliminary Canada goose breeding population estimate of 226, 000 in northern Ontario is down from previous years, and average production is expected.
The department expects to receive continental breeding waterfowl population estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey in 2-3 weeks.
In July, Wisconsin will join Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan as the Mississippi Flyway Council analyzes survey data and provides recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on waterfowl hunting regulations. These recommendations will help determine the framework under which states and provinces set waterfowl hunting seasons.
Following the council meeting and after USFWS selects a season framework, public hearings regarding Wisconsin's proposed waterfowl seasons will be held Aug. 3 through Aug. 6. Public input will inform the final Wisconsin season recommendations presented to the state Natural Resource Board for consideration and approval at its August 12 meeting at Horicon.
"As we do each year, the public will have opportunities to provide input on waterfowl hunting season during our meetings and hearings," said Van Horn. "This is a busy time of year for people, so we want to get the word out early about the public input opportunities. These meetings are also a great opportunity to hear the latest on waterfowl management and population status."
Dates and locations for the post-flyway council public meetings are as follows:
- Migratory Committee - Wisconsin Conservation Congress - Saturday Aug. 1, 9 a.m., Stevens Point - Holiday Inn, 1001 Amber Ave.
- Waterfowl Season Public Informational Meeting - Saturday Aug. 1, 1 p.m., Stevens Point - Holiday Inn, 1001 Amber Ave.
Public hearings regarding waterfowl season proposal are as follows:
- Monday, Aug. 3, 7 p.m., La Crosse - State Office Building, 3550 Mormon Coulee Road, Rooms B-19 and B-20.
- Tuesday, Aug. 4, 7 p.m., Rice Lake - Days Inn, 1710 South Main St.
- Wednesday, Aug. 5, 7 p.m., Appleton - Agricultural Services Center (main conference room), 3369 West Brewster St.
- Thursday, Aug. 6, 7 p.m., Pewaukee - Wildwood Lodge, N14 W24121 Tower Place.
The Natural Resources Board will discuss Wisconsin waterfowl seasons at its Aug. 12 meeting.
For a complete list of public input opportunities, visit dnr.wi.gov and search for "public input." For more information regarding waterfowl management in Wisconsin, search keywords "waterfowl management."