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Delta Waterfowl 2015 Research Projects Include Oil Impact Study, Hunter Recruitment Work

Delta Waterfowl 2015 Research Projects Include  Oil Impact Study, Hunter Recruitment Work

BISMARCK, N.D. — From adding ducks to the fall flight to unlocking doors for new hunters, Delta Waterfowl’s mission is guided by science, which is a policy dating to founder James Ford Bell’s declaration that “one must follow where research leads.”

“Much of what is known about waterfowl today was discovered through Delta’s pioneering research,” said Joel Brice, Delta Waterfowl vice president of waterfowl and hunter recruitment programs. “Nearly eight decades later, the focus is on applied research: Studies that address a specific waterfowl-management problem and find the solution. As ducks, their habitats and duck hunters face future challenges, Delta will be there to find the remedy.”

Where have more than 75 years of duck studies led? Here are Delta’s current research projects and the waterfowl mysteries they seek to resolve.

Oil Development and Waterfowl: Oil development has expanded greatly in the Prairie Pothole Region — home to North America’s highest densities of nesting ducks — yet little is known about its potential impact on waterfowl. Therefore the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has called upon Delta researchers to investigate. Using a study framework devised by Louisiana State University, Delta will determine any variations in nest success among areas of low-, medium- and high-intensity oil development. Based on the findings, Delta will provide oil companies with impact-mitigation strategies, and help devise new waterfowl management actions in the oil fields.

Alberta Hunter Recruitment: The number of waterfowlers across prairie Canada is in decline, and Delta Waterfowl wants to know why. Delta is partnering with the University of Alberta’s Dr. Lee Foote to assess several factors, including the complexity of game regulations that may be reducing hunter recruitment and retention. The findings will also indicate any necessary adjustments to mentored-hunting programs such as First Hunt, which Delta established in Canada.

CRP and Landowner Attitudes: Why did so many landowners choose not to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program? Given that declining CRP acreage has serious ramifications for ducks and duck hunters, Delta Waterfowl has partnered with North Dakota State University to find definitive answers. A survey begun last year will assess how prairie pothole farmers and ranchers view CRP, and how it could be adjusted to better meet the needs of all parties.

Wood Duck Harvest: Measuring the effects of hunter-harvest on migratory waterfowl is challenging, but an isolated population of Nevada wood ducks presents a unique opportunity. Noting the potential for study, Delta has partnered with Dr. Chris Nikolai to monitor the experimental manipulation of hunting regulations in the region. Essentially, all wood ducks in the population have been banded, thus ensuring delivery of critical data on hunting’s impact.

Predator Management: Delta Waterfowl remains committed to Predator Management research in Canada and the United States. A study in Manitoba will measure the impact of predator removal on overwater-nesting ducks such as canvasbacks. In Alberta, a pilot study involving grassland-nesting ducks is underway. The results will help predator managers fine-tune techniques for Alberta’s drier prairie habitat. Finally, a study in North Dakota is ongoing to determine if targeting grassland habitats for trapping can increase predator management’s efficiency.

Whitewater Lake Landowner Survey: Manitoba’s Whitewater Lake is critically important to staging, molting and breeding ducks, but its expanding wetlands are creating conflict with landowners. So, in search of a conservation compromise, Delta has partnered with the University of Manitoba to survey the local community’s interest in saving the wetland habitat. Pending analysis of the results, Delta might offer Alternative Land Use Services as a means for landowners to voluntarily conserve wetlands.

Great Salt Lake Phragmites: Phragmites have overtaken large expanses of Great Salt Lake marshes — habitat that supports vast numbers of waterfowl — with serious consequences. A team of graduate students from Utah State University is working with Delta to study treatments to manage phragmites and reestablish desirable wetland plants.

For more information, contact John Devney, vice president of U.S. policy, at (888) 987-3695 ext. 218 or jdevney@deltawaterfowl.org.

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.