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U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

Oct. 1, 2003

NOT MUCH CHANGE IN WATERFOWL NUMBERS, SAYS USFWS

A few more ducks and geese have moved into North Dakota, but continued dry
weather means a dwindling number of small wetlands and receding levels in
larger bodies of water. The weekly report from managers and biologists
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't show much change from last
week, but many resident hunters were successful on opening weekend.

J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge near Upham is still holding good
numbers of mallards and pintails, and a few small flocks of snow geese
started showing up late last week. Project leader Bob Howard says some
lesser Canada geese have arrived and quite a few local geese remain,
although they are usually found in groups of five to 20.

Waterfowl populations have improved slightly in Mountrail County, although
the area remains very dry. Todd Frerichs of the Lostwood Wetland
Management District says hunters who find large marshes could do well on
mallards and local Canada geese. At mid-week he saw a few snow geese and
some swans.

Very little waterfowl movement has been taking place at Des Lacs National
Wildlife Refuge near Kenmare. Refuge manager Dan Severson says there has
been no increase in last week's population estimates of 150 snow geese, 400
Canada geese and 2,000 ducks.

In northwestern North Dakota, poor water conditions have forced most
hunters to do field hunting. Monte Ellingson of the Crosby Wetland
Management District says the large wetlands are receding, leaving lots of
mud and no cover around the edges. He reports low waterfowl populations
and very few new arrivals.

About 500 snow geese have joined the 5,000 ducks and 1,000 Canada geese at
Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Minot. Manager Dean
Knauer says most of the ducks are poorly colored mallards and pintails.

In the Devils Lake area, waterfowl populations may be lower than expected,
but the outlook remains fair for this weekend. Mark Fisher of the Devils
Lake Wetland Management District says a few more snow geese and lesser
Canada geese are arriving, and sandhill crane numbers are fair to good, and
building in Benson and Towner counties. He suggests hunters try the Lake
Alice and Lakota areas, where water conditions are average or better, but
he warns that much of the private land is posted. Fisher says it appears
that cooler temperatures have driven most blue-winged teal out of the area.

The Canada goose population at Audubon National Wildlife Refuge near
Coleharbor has jumped from 5,000 last week to about 10,000. Biologist
Craig Hultberg says the refuge has about 5,000 mallards and gadwalls, but
only about a dozen snow geese. He expects fair to good hunting around
large wetlands in McLean and Sheridan counties, and says that hunters who
find water should also find ducks.

The sandhill crane population at Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge near
Moffit has reached 5,000. Biologist Tomi Buskness says the refuge is also
holding lots of local ducks and several hundred Canada geese. She reports
good concentrations of ducks and sandhill cranes in northern Kidder County,
which has fair water conditions.

The Canada goose population has doubled at Arrowwood National Wildlife
Refuge near Jamestown. Biologist Paulette Scherr estimated 1,100 Canada
geese on the refuge at mid-week, along with more than 5,000 ducks? mostly
mallards, gadwalls and shovelers, along with a few small flocks of scaup
and canvasbacks.

A few more Canada geese have reached Wells and Stutsman counties. Matt
Filsinger of the Chase Lake Prairie Project predicts some successful hunts
this weekend, but warns that many small potholes have disappeared, and
hunters will have to do their scouting. He adds that more sandhill cranes
have been spotted in the past few days.

Additional mallards and lesser Canada geese are being reported in
southeast-central North Dakota. However, Bob Vanden Berge of the Kulm
Wetland Management District says those expecting easy hunting may be
disappointed. He reports the successful hunters so far have been able to
find the few areas with water and cover. Vanden Berge notes that nearly
all the seasonal, temporary and semi-permanent wetlands in the area are
dry.

Griggs, Steele and northern Barnes counties hold the best potential for
hunters around Valley City. Kory Richardson of the Valley City Wetland
Management District says hunters have been reporting some success on
mallards and gadwalls, and some greater Canada geese are still being found.

Hunters are reporting fair success despite poor water conditions in
southeastern North Dakota. Biologist Kristine Askerooth of Tewaukon
National Wildlife Refuge says waterfowl are concentrated on bigger
wetlands, and she suggests hunters try the Forman and Milnor areas. The
refuge is holding a good mix of local ducks, but some pintails are
arriving, and lesser Canada geese are starting to show up.

The duck population has actually dropped at Sand Lake National Wildlife
Refuge near Aberdeen, South Dakota. Biologist Bill Schultze estimates the
refuge is holding about 45,000 shovelers, gadwalls and mallards, along with
1,200 Canada geese and 35 swans. He adds that no snow geese have been
reported on the refuge.

Nonresident waterfowl hunters take to the field in North Dakota on
Saturday, but they'll encounter some regulations changes. They cannot hunt
on state-controlled lands from October 11-17, they are restricted to
certain zones, and are limited in the number of days they can hunt
waterfowl. All hunters should note that the wanton waste laws have been
strengthened. Hunters must make a reasonable effort to retrieve birds and
must possess edible meat until it reaches its final destination or is
consumed.

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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