Sur­vey finds wa­ter­fowl num­bers sim­i­lar to five-year av­er­age

Record Observer - - Sports -

Each win­ter, aerial sur­vey teams of pilots and bi­ol­o­gists from Mary­land’s De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice make vis­ual es­ti­mates of the ducks, geese, and swans along the state’s Ch­e­sa­peake Bay shore­line and At­lantic coast. This year, the teams counted about 812,600 wa­ter­fowl, higher than the 663,000 birds ob­served dur­ing 2016 and sim­i­lar to the five-year av­er­age of 795,240.

Bi­ol­o­gists at­tribute much of the year-to-year vari­a­tion to weather con­di­tions.

“An early De­cem­ber cold snap through­out the East likely moved large num­bers of wa­ter­fowl, div­ing ducks in par­tic­u­lar, south to Mary­land wa­ters,” said Wildlife and Her­itage Ser­vice Di­rec­tor Paul Peditto.

Over­all, dab­bling ducks were sim­i­lar (87,900) to last win­ter (69,800). Div­ing duck num­bers (283,600) were higher when com­pared to last win­ter (246,000). Sur­vey teams also ob­served a good many more scaup (138,800) and can­vas­backs (75,100) in 2017 com­pared to counts of 91,800 and 19,800 re­spec­tively, last year. The Canada goose count (394,700) was higher than 2016 (293,800) but be­low the five-year av­er­age.

The Midwinter Wa­ter­fowl Sur­vey has been con­ducted an­nu­ally since the early 1950s. The Mary­land sur­vey re­sults are pooled to pro­vide a mea­sure of the dis­tri­bu­tional changes and long-term trends of wa­ter­fowl win­ter­ing in the At­lantic Fly­way.

* * * Fi­nal youth hunt Mary­lan­ders up to 16 years old can hone their hunt­ing skills with the help of an ex­pe­ri­enced adult Feb. 11 dur­ing the sec­ond of two Youth Wa­ter­fowl Hunt Days sched­uled this sea­son.

Ducks, geese, mer­gansers, and coots on pub­lic and pri­vate land are fair game.

“This is a great op­por­tu­nity to en­gage young peo­ple — Mary­land’s fu­ture hunters and trap­pers — in wa­ter­fowl­ing,” Peditto said. “It’s also an op­por­tu­nity to re­fresh the lessons learned in hunter safety and em­ploy skills like plac­ing de­coys, call­ing birds, and hunt­ing with a re­triever.”

All ju­nior hunters and their adult men­tors must carry valid Mary­land hunt­ing li­censes. Youth hunters must pur­chase a Mary­land Mi­gra­tory Game Bird Stamp but do not need to pur­chase a fed­eral duck stamp if un­der 16 years of age.

The bag lim­its for the youth hunt day are the same as the reg­u­lar sea­sons ex­cept: • One black duck may be taken. • Two Canada geese may be taken when hunt­ing within the At­lantic Pop­u­la­tion Canada Goose Hunt­ing Zone.

• Five Canada geese may be taken when hunt­ing within the At­lantic Fly­way Res­i­dent Pop­u­la­tion Canada Goose Hunt­ing Zone.

Li­censes, stamps, and per­mits may be pur­chased on­line, by phone at 855-8553906, at de­part­ment ser­vice cen­ters, or at any one of more than 250 agents statewide.

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