Aerial Survey Helps Locate Predator Management Sites
Delta Waterfowl, USFWS team up in North Dakota.
(Top) Joel Brice, Vice President of Conservation was up in the air this past week with the USFWS to survey candiate blocks for next year's predator management research in North Dakota. (Lower left) Hooked up to a GPS unit Joel's computer shows sites as the plane flies over. The model highlighted areas with high breeding pair densities with less then 10% grass on a township scale. (Lower right) This CRP field is likely going to be broken up next year for seeding.
Delta Waterfowl and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service recently joined forces to conduct an aerial survey of North Dakota that will help identify Delta's predator management sites for 2013.
Joel Brice, Delta Waterfowl vice president of conservation, joined USFWS pilot Shawn Bayless for a survey flight that covered ground from Bismarck to the South Dakota border.
They identified 10 possible predator management sites using a state-of-the-art GPS system that tied into USFWS habitat and breeding pair data.
"The technology we used was awesome," Brice said. "We know the type of ground we're looking for. The computer then tells you where the conditions are right. It takes you right to the best spots."
The best locations for Delta's trapping program were found in the southeast part of the state. These areas have high wetland densities and very low amounts of grass; ideal conditions for Delta's continuing predator management research.
Since "low grass" research first began in North Dakota in 2009, nest success on trapped blocks has averaged 35.4 percent, while non-trapped control blocks have averaged 17.3 percent.
Brice also was struck by near-drought conditions across a huge chunk of North Dakota.
"It's extremely dry out there," he said. "As of today, it has to turn around 180 degrees. Without significant snow or spring rains, it's going to make for some tough breeding conditions next spring."
Since 1994, Delta Waterfowl's predator management research has demonstrated that predator reduction dramatically increases nest success under certain conditions.
Predator management research will continue next year in North Dakota and Manitoba.