Drop in population along Atlantic flyway causes changes
Duck hunters in the Carolinas who love to see mallards lock up as they approach the decoys will have to be satisfied with a daily bag limit that’s 50-percent lower when the 2019-20 season arrives in the fall.
That’s the word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Atlantic Flyway Council, which has announced that hunters along the flyway are facing a two-bird daily limit on mallards — down from four — with one hen allowed in the daily bag.
A long-term decline in the population of eastern mallards has led to the bag-limit changes. Sally Yannuzzi, the waterfowl biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, said. “The number of mallards on the Atlantic flyway has been dropping about one percent a year (for 20 years). We’re not sure why yet, but that’s behind the limited bag limit. We expect the issue is (breeding) productivity. But by dropping the bag limit, we make sure it’s not related (to hunting).
“They have compared these numbers to the way black ducks dropped (in the 1990s). Those numbers were scary low.”
Mallard numbers remain high in other regions
Yannuzzi said the USFWS is looking at problems in mallards’ breeding grounds in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. She said mallard numbers on the Mississippi, Central and Pacific flyways remain high. The population, at around 10 million, is larger than any other North American duck species.
Although eastern mallards are declining, they occupy a smaller percentage of the Atlantic Flyway harvest than elsewhere. Also, the breeding habitat of eastern mallards is distinct from other major species important in the Atlantic Flyway.
“If you looked at the estimate of breeding mallards and breeding mallard habitat in the Central Flyway in a given year, it’d be pretty descriptive for all prairie-nesting ducks,” said John Devney. “But mallards are a less appropriate surrogate for the habitat and breeding biology of the important eastern ducks considered in the multi-stock harvest strategy.”