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U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

NEWS RELEASE

To: News Editor/News Director
From: Ken Torkelson, USFWS
Oct. 8, 2003

WARM WEATHER SLOWS WATERFOWL MIGRATION, DRIES WETLANDS

Warm temperatures continue to dry up wetlands and keep waterfowl from migrating into North Dakota. A survey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers and biologists shows very little change in duck and goose populations this week.

A few more ducks and geese have arrived at Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge near Kenmare, but manager Dan Severson says populations are still low. The refuge is holding about 5,000 ducks, fewer than 1,000 lesser Canada geese and snow geese, plus a few white-fronts. Severson believes the unseasonably warm weather has drastically slowed the migration out of Canada.

Water conditions remain very poor in extreme northwestern North Dakota. Tim Kessler of the Crosby Wetland Management District says he has seen a few snow geese between Noonan and Crosby, and some sandhill cranes south of Lignite, but duck populations consist mainly of local gadwalls and shovelers.

In Mountrail County, some of the larger wetlands have a few mallards, Shell Lake was holding a few geese and sandhill cranes early this week, and some snow geese were reported at Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea. Todd Frerichs of the Lostwood Wetland Management District says the sandhill cranes seem to be more scattered than normal, but they are in huntable numbers.

Waterfowl populations remain low at Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge near Minot. Manager Dean Knauer says there has been very little movement this week, and the refuge continues to hold about 5,000 ducks, about 1,000 Canada geese and 500 snow geese.

Dry conditions and warm temperatures combine for difficult hunting around J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge at Upham. Assistant manager Gary Erickson says the geese aren?t coming down from Canada, and local ducks seem hesitant to leave the refuge. He reports a few snow geese and some sandhill cranes in the area, but overall a ?quiet? situation.

Wetlands are vanishing in northeastern North Dakota. Biologist Mark Fisher of the Devils Lake Wetland Management District says the warm weather has slowed migration to almost nothing, and the ducks already here don?t need to go out and feed much. He reports heavy pressure on public lands in the area, but notes the best opportunities are near Lake Alice, Lakota and on the main body of Devils Lake.

Central North Dakota has more waterfowl, many more hunters, much more posted land and much less water than last year, so everything is concentrated. Audubon National Wildlife Refuge project leader Mike McEnroe says the refuge has about 6,000 Canada geese and up to 10,000 ducks, with another 2,000 to 3,000 Canada geese at nearby Lake Nettie refuge.

Waterfowl and sandhill crane populations are holding steady at Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Moffit. Biologist Gregg Knutsen estimates the refuge is holding about 1,500 Canada geese, almost 5,500 sandhill cranes and large numbers of shovelers and gadwalls. He says the best water conditions continue to be found in northern Burleigh and Kidder counties.

The warm temperatures have kept some blue-winged teal around Stutsman and Wells counties. Dave Bolin of the Chase Lake Prairie Project believes there hasn?t been much migration in or out. He says no migrant diving ducks have arrived yet, and some mallards have moved out because of hunter pressure. Bolin also reports fair numbers of sandhill cranes west of Woodworth.

The Canada goose population at Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge north of Jamestown has doubled to more than 2,000. Biologist Paulette Scherr estimates a similar number in the surrounding area. The refuge also has up to 10,000 ducks? mostly mallards, gadwalls and shovelers. Also in the area early this week were some small flocks of scaup and canvasbacks, plus about 100 tundra swans. A survey of the area from Kensal through eastern Foster and Eddy counties revealed better water conditions and fewer large concentrations of ducks, but a good increase in the Canada goose numbers, with flock sizes from 100 to over 400 birds.

Wetlands in southeast-central North Dakota continue to dry up at a rapid pace. Bob Vanden Berge of the Kulm Wetland Management District says many of the duck concentrations have been broken up, and he believes more of them will be found in the southern part of his district and possibly into South Dakota. He predicts only fair to poor opportunities for waterfowl hunters this weekend, but notes that pheasant populations are better than in recent years.

Most large bodies of water in Barnes, Griggs and Eddy counties have ducks. Kory Richardson of the Valley City Wetland Management District says good concentrations of mallards and pintails were found on bigger water in the Wimbledon area over the weekend, and Hobart Lake held some mallards and Canada geese. He says scouting remains vital, because not every wetland has water or ducks.

A few more Canada geese have reached southeastern North Dakota. Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge biologist Kristine Askerooth suggests hunters try waterfowl production areas south of Hankinson and Lidgerwood that have large bodies of water, but she warns that the fire danger is very high.

In northeastern South Dakota, Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge is holding about 60,000 ducks, 1,500 Canada geese and 35 tundra swans, but no snow geese. Biologist Bill Schultze says the duck population, an increase of 15,000 from last week, is mostly shovelers, gadwalls, mallards and green-winged teal, although more wigeon have arrived.

Those pursuing sandhill cranes should note that whooping cranes have been reported in the state in the past few days. The rare, protected whoopers commonly travel with sandhill cranes, and pass through North Dakota each spring and fall. Any sightings of whooping cranes should be promptly reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 387-4397 or the N.D. Game and Fish Department at 328-6300.

Hunters are reminded that the daily limit of ducks can only include one canvasback and one pintail through November 4, when the season closes for those two species. Also, nonresidents cannot hunt any game from October 11 through October 17 on state-controlled land, which includes wildlife management areas and Conservation P.L.O.T.S.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages 1,100 waterfowl production areas in North Dakota. These public areas are open to hunting, and are marked with the familiar green and white WPA sign. Funds to acquire them come from Federal Duck Stamp sales to the nation?s waterfowl hunters.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, log on to www.fws.gov
 
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