Midwinter Survey numbers show abundance of mallards
LITTLE ROCK – With less than two weeks left in the 2013-2014 duck season, the latest duck numbers offer cause for optimism among the state’s hunters.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists flew the annual Midwinter Survey Jan. 6-8 and estimated just over 927,000 total ducks in the state’s Delta, including more than 807,000 mallards (nearly 90 percent of the total). The total duck and mallard estimates both fell below the five-year averages for the Midwinter Survey, but both population estimates increased from the last aerial waterfowl survey in December.
The estimated mallard population was more than double the December 2013 mallard estimate and also double the mallard total from the Midwinter Survey period a year ago. The current population estimate of more than 807,000 mallards is the second highest mallard count since the AGFC began systematic aerial surveys five years ago.
While the total Delta duck estimate of roughly 927,000 was well below the roughly 1.4 million duck average over the past five years, it’s important to note that the survey took place during a period of extreme cold temperatures that gripped Arkansas the second week of January. The cold conditions limited habitat availability and confined ducks to major river floodplains and other moving water that remained unfrozen.
In southwest Arkansas, observers counted an estimated 36,000 total ducks, about half of which were mallards. Weather conditions prevented a survey in the Arkansas River Valley; it is being conducted this week.
Habitat conditions remain very good across much of the state, with most wildlife management areas with green-tree reservoirs being fully flooded. Ample rainfall this month also has created abundant habitat in agricultural fields across the Delta.
Temperatures are forecast to stay near or slightly above seasonal averages for the next week.