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South Dakota duck population gets help from rain

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A wet late Spring season's increase in rainfall helped duck populations rebound in the northern Great Plains near the U.S.-Canadian border. A dry Winter and resulting low ground water levels threatened duck nesting grounds in the area.

Much to the relief of duck hunters, who feared a possible 2005 ban on duck hunting, the most-recent waterfowl survey released this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed duck populations in South Dakota on the rebound.

This contrasted to a May survey that showed fewer ducks and waterfowl nesting areas in the state with the population of breeding ducks numbering 1.6 million, down from 1.7 million in 2004. The same May survey indicated that duck habitats, specifically ponds, had declined more than 35 percent from the historical average.

However, late Spring rains reportedly improved wetland conditions and irrigated grasslands for grazing duck broods and re-nesting hens. The figures are used to set duck-hunting limits for the fall season, which begins in August.

"I have observed many duck broods across eastern South Dakota in July, and grassland cover looks great statewide," Spencer Vaa, a waterfowl biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks said in an Associated Press report.

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