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Reward bands are bands with dollar values stamped on them that are put on ducks in addition to standard bands. In other words, a duck carrying a reward band is double-banded, one band being the standard band, and the other band stating "Reward," a dollar value, and a number. Numbers for both bands must be reported to receive the reward.

Prairie Hunter:

Reward bands are used to estimate band reporting rates (the probability that, given a normal banded duck is shot and retrieved or found dead, the band is reported to the Bird-banding Lab in Maryland. Ron Reynolds et al. (1991; Journal of Wildlife Management 55:119-126) placed reward bands of differing dollar values on ducks and showed that $100 was sufficient to achieve band reporting rates near 100%. Prior to the 1-800 system where hunters can call in and report recoveries over the phone, reporting rates averaged about 33%. But band reporting rates jumped to around 80% with the adoption of the 1-800 system.

The big jump in reporting rates with the adoption of the 1-800 system suggests that low reporting rates in the past were due to confusion by hunters or other difficulty in reporting bands. Old bands simply said write Washington D.C. Even though the zip code stamped on the band was specific to the Bird-banding Lab, few people thought that a letter addressed to Washington D.C. with no street address would ever arrive at the proper destination. Also, there was a lot of confusion by hunters in the past that reporting bands meant they had to send in the band, and many hunters, of course, want to keep them for souvenirs.

Reporting rates are important for estimating harvest rates. Let's say that we band 1000 female mallards and 50 are reported by hunters the following fall and winter as being shot. This gives us a direct recovery rate of 50/1000=5%. But not all banded ducks shot by hunters were retrieved, and not all banded ducks shot and retrieved were reported to the Bird Lab. If we estimate crippling loss as 20%, for example, then 0.05/0.8=0.0625 is an estimate of the proportion of ducks that were shot and retrieved and shot and not retrieved, assuming reporting rates were 100%. If we take into account the information that reporting rates are about 80%, then 0.0625/0.8=0.078 is an estimate of the harvest rate, accounting for both crippling loss and reporting rates.

Reporting rates are estimated by examining the difference in direct recovery rate of reward bands versus that of standard bands.
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