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State mallard numbers drop 15 percent; bluewings down also

Mallard numbers declined by 15 percent this spring compared to a year ago, said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. Blue-wing teal numbers also plummeted — by 51 percent statewide.

In a press release, the DNR said:

This year’s mallard breeding population was estimated at 214,000, which is 15 percent below last year’s estimate of 250,000 breeding mallards and 6 percent below the long-term average measured each year since 1968.

The blue-winged teal population is 159,000 this year, 51 percent below last year’s estimate and 25 percent below the long-term average.

The combined populations of other ducks such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is 263,000, which is 23 percent higher than last year and 48 percent above the long-term average.

The estimate of total duck abundance (excluding scaup) is 636,000, which is 19 percent lower than last year and 3 percent above the long-term average.

The estimated number of wetlands was 20 percent higher than last year and 5 percent above the long-term average. Wetland numbers can vary greatly based on annual precipitation.

Canada goose population increases

This year’s Canada goose population was estimated at 322,000 geese, higher than last year’s estimate of 202,000 geese and 9 percent above the long-term average.

“With the early spring and favorable habitat, Canada geese had a very good nesting year and there are lots of young goslings present across the state,” Cordts said.

The number of breeding Canada geese in the state is estimated via a helicopter survey of nesting Canada geese in April. The survey counts Canada geese on randomly selected plots located in prairie, transition and forested areas of the state and includes most of the state except for the Twin Cities area metro area.

The 2017 Minnesota waterfowl report is available at mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

Ruffed grouse numbers up; near population cycle peak, DNR says

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were up 57 percent statewide this year compared to last year, according to the DNR.

“The grouse population is nearing its 10-year peak,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “Grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a decade-long cycle and counts this year are typical of what we expect as the population nears the peak.”

The 2017 survey results for ruffed grouse were 2.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 were 0.9 and 1.1 and 1.1 and 1.3, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.

Results this year follow an increase from 2015 to 2016. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of Minnesota’s grouse range, counts were 2.5 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.6 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.9 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.8 drums per stop.  Statewide, drums per stop were as high as during the last peak in drumming in 2009, but have not yet reached previous peak levels in all regions.

“We’re excited about the way things are looking,” said Ted Dick, DNR forest game bird coordinator.. “We have more good grouse habitat than anywhere in the lower 48 states.”

Sharp-tailed grouse counts similar to last year
“The average number of sharp-tailed grouse was similar this year compared to 2016,” Roy said.

The data on sharp-tailed grouse take some interpretation, because survey results can be influenced by how many leks are counted or changes in how many birds are at each lek year to year.

Comparisons of the same leks counted in both years indicate that counts per lek were similar to last year in both survey regions and statewide.  This year’s statewide average of 9.7 sharp-tailed grouse per lek was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

The DNR’s 2017 grouse survey report and grouse hunting information can be found at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

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