By TODD MASSON | The Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana duck hunters have been hearing for years that lean days are coming. They know the Prairie Pothole Region has been ridiculously wet for the last two decades, and sooner or later, the pendulum will swing, and drought will trim duck numbers with a hatchet rather than a scalpel.
But that's not likely to happen this year.
According to Ducks Unlimited, the continent's largest waterfowl conservation organization, conditions on the PPR are yet again above average for duck production.
Rick Warhurst, senior regional biologist at the DU Great Plains Regional office in Bismarck, N.D., said hunters can be thankful for rain and snow that began falling more than half a year ago.
“Abundant precipitation last fall, adequate winter snowfall and a good frost seal across much of the Duck Factory resulted in water refilling wetlands this spring,” he said. “Wetland conditions are good to very good across a large portion of the Prairie Pothole Region, and large numbers of waterfowl have settled in the region this spring.”
The Prairie Pothole Region covers 300,000 square miles from Iowa to Alberta, and produces up to 70 percent of the continent's waterfowl.
Most waterfowl nest in lush grasslands adjacent to ponds. When the vegetation is healthy and high, more waterfowl nests escape the eyes and noses of predators. In dry years, more waterfowl concentrate their nesting efforts around fewer ponds, providing easy forage for predators.
Also, the invertebrates found in shallow ponds are crucial to egg-laying hens as well as the young ducklings in their early life stages.
Waterfowl are currently in the process of building nests and incubating eggs. Warhurst expects the first Canada goose broods to hatch any day and the first mallard and pintail nests to begin hatching in about two weeks.
The Prairie Pothole Region has enjoyed wetter-than-normal conditions since 1995.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, www.nola.com