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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: Waterfowl count suggests numbers hike
Last year’s record Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey had many mid-Atlantic duck hunters eagerly waiting winter and hordes of migrating birds to the region.
Yet the season was a big bust for many hunters. Winter never materialized. Fields and waters that should’ve frozen over in the north stayed open well past duck seasons.
So, duck hunters, try not to get too excited about the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service survey estimates of 48.6 million ducks out there.
This 7 percent increase from last year’s record is the most counted in the 67 years the survey has been conducted.
The survey map depicting wetland breeding conditions across the United States and Canada showed mostly good to excellent habitat across the eastern third of North America, while conditions were drier in the Dakotas and farther west.
This could mean, if weather cooperates, some wild wing shooting around the Chesapeake Bay region.
Delta Waterfowl’s scientific director, Dr. Frank Rohwer, said: “We had excellent wetland conditions in 2011, the second-highest pond count ever. So last year, we made a pile of ducks. This year, we’re counting them.”
Mallards, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwalls, canvasbacks, northern shovelers and scaup are all up significantly from last year, with both species of teal and shovelers at all-time highs.
Mallard breeding numbers sit at 10.6 million, a 15 percent increase over 2011 and 40 percent over the long-term average.
Gadwall now total 3.5 million, nearly double their long-term average.
American wigeon are up slightly to 2.1 million, but still 17 percent below their long-term average. Scaup numbers are up 21 percent to 5.2 million. Bag limits on scaup were reduced a few years ago, and bluebill numbers have increased for seven consecutive years.
Canvasbacks rose 10 percent to 760,000, the fourth-highest count on record. The number of pintails counted declined considerably.
For an excellent slide show depicting individual duck species trends since 1955, see deltawaterfowl.org/media/pr/2012/120703-BPOP.php.
While breeding duck counts are high, the number of ponds counted is low, especially in the Canada and United States prairie region. This could impact duck breeding success.
The biggest decline in wetland conditions occurred on the U.S. prairies, with pond estimates for the Dakotas and Montana down 49 percent from last year. Canadian prairies have also declined this year, with fewer temporary wetlands.
The survey is conducted each May.
VIRGINIA WATERFOWL STAMP
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries began selling the 2012 Virginia State Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp last week.
The stamp depicts a painting by Powhatan resident John Obolewicz titled “Buffleheads at Cape Henry Light.” It depicts a pair of bufflehead ducks arching up with outspread wings on the water, with the Cape Henry lighthouses in the background.
A migratory waterfowl conservation stamp is required of all persons (unless license-exempt) age 16 and older who hunt or take any migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese, brant and swans) in Virginia. The annual duck stamp costs $10 (resident or non-resident) and is available for online sale or at locations where Virginia hunting licenses are sold.
Collectors stamps and prints of the painting can be purchased by contacting Mike Hinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year, 22,464 duck stamps were sold, bringing in $224,640. Revenues are used to protect, preserve, restore, enhance and develop waterfowl habitat in Virginia through the VDGIF’s waterfowl program.
GUNS, GOOGLE AND TREATIES
Two issues have the firearms industry buzzing this week.
First, Internet search engine company Google has banned in its “shopping” function results related to firearms and other products it deems not “family safe.”
Google and several other online shopping tools offer quick price comparisons.
Products classified as “non-family safe” include guns, ammunition and knives, and many gun parts and hardware. Promotion of gun ranges, scopes, laser sights and non-working antique or non-working replica guns will be permitted.
Many industry watchers condemn the move, although some say it will help prevent some undercutting of the overall market by extreme, deep online discounters.
Interestingly, sales of firearms and ammo have been robust for the last few years and consumer demand remains high.
Other Internet shopping services will likely fill any void left by Google’s policy.
Also of note is the full-court press related to the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. The National Rifle Association has called the proposed treaty one of the “most serious threats to American gun owners in decades.”
Some countries are calling for all small arms, as well as ammunition, to be included. Stated broad objectives relate to curtailing flows of arms to renegade groups, drug cartels and similar, but many Second Amendment defenders and representatives of countries where private ownership of firearms is a treasured right fear the treaty is a backdoor avenue to eventual enactment of policies and laws that would erode that right.
Last year, 58 U.S. senators signed a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reminding them that the Senate has final say on treaties and opposing any treaty that would affect civilian ownership of firearms, challenge Congress’ authority to regulate firearms within the United States, or call for an international gun registry.
Two weeks ago, 130 members of the House of Representatives sent a similar letter, adding that the treaty should not cover small arms, light weapons, or related material, such as firearms ammunition. They also called for any treaty to expressly recognize a person’s right to self-defense and hunting, sports shooting, and other lawful activities as legitimate uses of privately owned firearms.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e–mail at email@example.com.