Report: Spring Duck Numbers at Record High!

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

July 15, 2015

North America’s spring duck population is at a record high, but returning birds initially found a lower pond count in key areas of the breeding grounds, according to the 2015 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey released last week. This week you’ll also read about the discovery of CWD in captive Texas deer for the first time, and more!

Absher's ONH 3 7-15-15Breeding Duck Population Nears 50 Million!
The annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1955, puts the 2015 breeding duck population at a 49.52 million, slightly higher than last year’s population of 49.15 milalion and 43 percent above the long-term average.

The survey marks the highest estimates ever recorded for mallards and green-winged teal. Mallards increased 7 percent to 11.64 million, 51 percent above the long-term average. Green-winged teal populations grew by 19 percent to 4.08 million, 98 percent above the long-term average.

“This year’s population estimates are not due to great conditions this year, but are high because of several consecutive years of great production,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl. “All the stars aligned in 2014: There was water in all the right places and at all the right times. Despite the declining pond conditions, the data indicates great population carryover from the last few highly successful breeding seasons.”

The May pond count registered 6.31 million — 12 percent lower than last year’s soaking wet conditions, but still 21 percent above the long-term average. In the U.S. portion of the prairie pothole region, which consists of eastern Montana and the Dakotas, conditions were drier than previous years until significant rains fell in May and June. The Canadian portion of PPR, which encompasses much of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, also saw reduced pond estimates. But unlike in the U.S., a lack of rains later in spring led to deteriorating conditions for breeding ducks.

Permitless Carry: Maine Governor Signs, New Hampshire Governor Vetoes
A measure to allow Mainers to carry firearms for personal protection without the need for a permit was signed into law July 7 by Gov. Paul LePage (R).

The National Rifle Association-supported LD 652 makes Maine the second New England state, and the sixth state overall, with a so-called constitutional carry law. Vermont has never required a permit for a law-abiding citizen to carry a concealed handgun.

As passed by the House and Senate, the bill would allow anyone 21 and older who is not prohibited from owning firearms to carry concealed. A provision added to the bill by the Senate and concurred by the House in a bipartisan vote of 87-60 June 5 also permits members of the military age 18 and older to carry firearms.

The action by Maine’s governor provided a sharp contrast to neighboring New Hampshire, where Gov. Maggie Hassan on Monday, July 6 vetoed similar legislation under pressure by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg- bankrolled gun control groups, despite the bill’s strong support in the legislature.

New Hampshire Senate Bill 116 was introduced by state Republicans and passed the Senate 14-9 in February and the House by a margin of 212-150 in April.

FWS Nixes Wild Horse ESA Listing
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has denied a proposal put forth by animal rights groups that would have classified wild horses as an endangered species.

In 2014, the groups Friends for Animals and the Cloud Foundation petitioned Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and FWS to grant North American wild horses endangered species status on grounds that the animals were ecologically threatened. The advocates claimed the wild horses represent a distinct population segment because the wild horses differed from domestic counterparts physically and psychologically.

After reviewing the petition, the FWS determined the horse advocates did not present substantial information supporting the claim that the wild horses represent a distinct population segment or that the animals are threatened or endangered “at this time.”

CWD Confirmed For First Time in Texas Captive Deer
A 2-year-old deer in a Medina County, Texas, deer-breeding facility has been confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), marking the first case of CWD in captive Texas whitetail.

CWD was first detected in Texas in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in the Hueco Mountains in far West Texas.

The Medina County tissue samples submitted by the breeder facility in early June as part of routine deer mortality surveillance revealed the presence of CWD during testing at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the findings on Tuesday, June 30.

Officials have taken immediate action to secure all cervids at the Medina County breeder facility with plans to conduct additional investigation for CWD. In addition, those breeder facilities that have received deer from the Medina County facility or shipped deer to that facility during the last two years are under movement restrictions and cannot move or release cervids at this time.

“This is a terribly unfortunate development that we are committed to addressing as proactively, comprehensively, and expeditiously as possible,” said Carter Smith, Texas Park and Wildlife Department executive director. “The health of our state’s wild and captive deer herds, as well as affiliated hunting, wildlife, and rural based economies, are vitally important to Texas hunters, communities, and landowners. As such, our primary objectives are to determine the source of the disease and to identify other deer breeding facilities and release sites that may have received deer from affected facilities.”

Quote of the Week
“I have known a dog to sound like people talking, muttering and grunting in obvious imitation of animated conversation. If a parrot can do it, why not? Of course, it wasn’t words the dog pronounced, but it sure did sound like people.”
– Charley Waterman,
|“Canine Wavelengths,”
“Ridge Runners and Swamp Rats,” 1983

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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