September 22, 2017

Ducks, Dodos* & Moose

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By James Beers

*Dodos were flightless birds slightly larger than turkeys.  They were found only on the island of Mauritius, East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.  First recorded by Dutch sailors in 1598; by 1662 dodos were extinct due to hungry sailors stopping there for food and introduced species like Norway and Black rats that began preying upon their single egg nests and young.  It can honestly be observed that no one intentionally made dodos extinct.  Dodos became extinct due to human ignorance of and indifference to the dodos fate

Question: “What do ducks, dodos and moose have in common?”

Answer: “They have each been the victims of unregulated predation that reduces their numbers such that they either did or are steadily losing their many benefits to mankind.

The dodo no longer feeds island visitors or the residents of Mauritius thanks to Early European voyagers and the vermin they carried with them

The moose and particularly their calves and pregnant cows are very vulnerable to wolf predation as attested to by the suspension of moose hunting in Minnesota as wolves increased in numbers dramatically.  This phenomenon is repeated routinely in Alaska when wolf numbers are allowed to increase above minimal levels as well as in the Upper Rocky Mountain States as wolves have increased dramatically in recent years.

Ducks in North America, similarly, are preyed upon by duck hunters since the times of Asian immigration as glaciers receded to the advent of European arrivals and settlement.

What these three animals do not share is any human concern for their sustainable benefit to humans as their numbers dwindle and the effects of predation are ignored.

In the case of the dodo, ignorance and indifference are understandable, though regretted, as men were dramatically expanding their limited comprehension of the globe and the life forms it contained.

In the case of moose; Minnesota and the Upper Rocky Mtn. States are forced by federal fiat; from feckless politicians and self-serving bureaucrats in thrall to radical environmentalists, animal rights fanatics and a host of reactionaries from gun controllers and anti-hunters to communists; to host and protect wolf densities not seen for over a century.  Alaskan moose are also threatened by the same characters using expensive court maneuvers to prevent any and all wolf control to maintain moose availability as desired by Alaskans. Thus, you could say the dodo was made extinct by human indifference while the moose numbers and availability are being reduced in moose habitat in the US by a government bureaucracy using force to implement a broad range of hidden agendas.

But; what of ducks?

The same federal bureaucrats that are forcing uncontrolled wolves into the Lower 48 States’ settled landscapes have had complete management authority over ducks and duck hunters for a century.  Up until the early 1990’s, these bureaucrats (USFWS) gave high priority to waterfowl management and waterfowl hunting.  Waterfowl hunting financed federal land acquisition for Refuges, state wildlife programs and Billions of dollars in the economy from art and rural employment to businesses and manufactories for everything from guns and boats to waders, decoys and rural hunting leases.  Waterfowl were important and managed carefully for a long list of good reasons by knowledgeable federal managers and cooperating state bureaucrats.  But, “Why did I say; ‘Up until the early 1990’s’?”

In the early 1990’s, USFWS began a steady shift away from hiring anyone trained in, concerned about or likely to advocate for waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.  The “new” USFWS was to consist of anti-wildlife management and anti-hunting “protectionists” and animal “rights zealots.  Just as with wolves federal (and complicit state) bureaucrats began “cooking” census numbers and counts.  They shifted migratory bird money to “education” about “saving” every living thing from guns, chainsaws and cows.  They shifted migratory bird enforcement from waterfowl and preventing importation of Injurious Wildlife like snakeheads, constrictors, pythons and Asian carp to prosecuting anyone harming a wolf or grizzly bear and “assisting” the “new” natural resource enforcers shooting a protestor in the snow, shooting privately owned cows on grazing allotments and getting life terms for ranchers standing up for their rights.

I could go here, like telling you how the waterfowl NGO’s like Ducks Unlimited are no more than Charlie McCarthies on the federal ventriloquist’s knee.  Before I retired to Minnesota (once a famous duck hunting state but no more) I was critical of DU’s reticence in opposing the USFWS shift from pro-ducks to anti-ducks.  When I moved here I renewed my DU membership that I had let lapse, with the intention of going to a few DU Banquets (where they raise lots of their money) and meeting some duck hunters and maybe finding a good place or two to hunt.  In two years I was never once invited to or informed of ANY banquet.  HHMMM!

Two other quick incidents tell you all you need to know about ducks, USFWS and DU.  My first year in MN as I was leaving church one Sunday a fellow came up and said he heard I was a duck hunter.  When I said yes, he said good and that he and I should go sometime and he would get back to me.  He never did and I still see him most Sundays.  When I asked if anyone knew him, I was told not his name but he works for the MN DNR. That was 8 years ago.

Then there was the time I wrote a scathing article about waterfowl management in Minnesota and (among other local addressees) sent it to everyone I thought might be able to do something.  At 6 AM the next morning I got a very happy and enthusiastic call from a Minnesota duck organization president who talked to me for about 15 minutes and said he was going to speak with his board and get back to me.  That was 7 years ago and still… crickets.

Certain refuges no longer plant waterfowl food or manage for hunting (primary stated reasons for funding and authorization for purchase to Congress).  Nasty anti-hunting bureaucrats get nastier and nastier as they go about more egregious policies without any opposition from cowed hunters and NGO’s like DU that trade jobs and grants with USFWS employees and retirees routinely, again because of no enforcement or pushback.

All of the foregoing is a lead-up to the following note by a former USFWS employee and duck hunter like yours truly.  He is a native of the Lower Mississippi Flyway and I grew up and live in the Upper Mississippi Flyway.  He has been a reader and correspondent for years and he just shared the following message he sent to a colleague at Louisiana State University regarding the current state of the continental waterfowl population and duck hunting.

I agree with everything he says here and I ask you to remember as you read it that the same USFWS bureaucrats that are pushing wolves and grizzlies; turning state wildlife agencies into federal handmaidens; allowing all manner of deadly, destructive and dangerous wildlife into the USA despite the money, employees and laws they are given to prevent this – these same bureaucrats are purposely doing what he relates and unlike those European sailors, these wildlife-as-tools for rural destruction cannot plead ignorance or indifference.  They are doing this with full knowledge for their “foul” purposes.

Jim Beers

2 August 2017

If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks.

Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

August 1, 2017

History of the Perfect Storm for the Demise of Ducks in North America

1-Agricultural practices have changed from spring plowing to fall plowing.  Fall plowing eliminates fall and spring duck foods

2- Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) stabilized regulations by flyway at very liberal harvest levels

3-High harvest levels appear to have dramatically decreased breeding populations in “Production” States, particularly within the Mississippi Flyway.

4-  Senator Trent Lott of MS forced the regulatory framework to be extended roughly 10 days longer into January, while all previous research had indicated that hunting seasons past January 15 broke waterfowl pair bonds, and led to poorer body condition in breeding hens the following spring. However, the northern states opposed this and requested that the frame work be extended on the front end by the same number of days. Instead of the FWS denying the southern states the ability to add days at the end of their season, they allowed northern states to open a week earlier.  This makes successful adult females and HY young ducks extremely vulnerable to hunting.  This has likely led to the disastrous declines in breeding populations in many “Production States”

5- Climate changes made this a monumental mistake for southern states because most northern states were usually frozen solid by Dec 1st. Therefore, in northern states ducks were only hunted for 2/3 of the season length no matter how long the season was.  So if the flyway was granted a 50 day season southern states hunted 50 days and northern states only hunted 30 because the last 20 days all the water was frozen!! Now most the States in the Miss. Flyway hunt nearly 60 days.

6 – Since 2005, 25 MILLION + acres of CRP and other grasslands (DUCK NESTING HABITAT ELIMINATED) have been converted to agriculture to provide corn for the government imposed ethanol mandates.  Somehow starting at the exact same time (2005) the May Survey began to increase, and by spring 2015, minus 25 million acres of CRP, and millions of acres of drained temporary and seasonal wetlands, duck populations – according to the May Survey- had grown to the point that they were higher than they had EVER been.

7- Although the May Survey indicated that there were more breeding ducks in spring of 2015, the waterfowl hunting season in 2015-2016 was one of the worst in several decades with more than a million fewer ducks killed in the Mississippi Flyway alone than in the previous year.

8- Further, although May survey numbers have grown exponentially since 2005, to numbers greater than have ever been counted, mid-winter surveys indicate half the number of mallards than in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

9- Water is now artificially maintained throughout the US and crops are “legally” left unharvested, and FLOODED, for the purpose of killing ducks.

10– The Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) Matrix was adopted to stabilize hunting regulations in the early 1990’s. The matrix is so biased to high harvest that the duck season in the Mississippi flyway has been 60 days and 6 ducks for over 20 years.

11- The AHM regulations are largely based on the May Breeding Population Estimates conducted by the US FWS, CWS and the States. These estimates were in 2016 –13.9 million breeding mallards. The harvest on mallards has been down 40% in the flyway!!! The Adult to immature ratio is very low. Given these data it appears that near record numbers of Mallards are not producing adequately to sustain the population, or, and this is quite likely given every other source of data concerning duck numbers, the May Survey numbers are not portraying waterfowl population trends in a reliable way.  It seems highly illogical that duck populations can continue to increase with the amount of habitat destruction that has gone on the past 10 years.  There are very few waterfowl hunters, observers, or biologists that would concede that there are more ducks today than there were in the 1950’s, 1960’s or 1970’s.  If that is the case, and the May survey has not changed protocols, then it is hard to believe any of the numbers coming from this survey.

12- The FWS conceded to allow special teal seasons in several “Production” states in the past 10 years.  The “production” states within the Mississippi Flyway that took these seasons have all seen dramatic declines in blue-winged teal numbers within their states over the past 30 years.  Why would the FWS allow these states, and more importantly, why would these states take a blue-winged teal season, thus adding harvest to their already decimated local blue-winged teal populations?

13- With the above points in mind, there is major concern by knowledgeable biologists and hunters that there are major flaws in the management of Duck populations in North America.

14 – One significant problem in this equation is that duck scientists that question the current system are typically shunned, ignored and not professionally considered.  The purpose of this document is not to condemn current management but to open the eyes of the people that actually manage waterfowl in North America.  It may not be too late to reverse this perfect storm, but something must be done soon if we are to stem the tide of declining waterfowl hunters, and maintain waterfowl hunting traditions for our children and grandchildren.

Paul Yakupzack
Wildlife Consulting
244 St. Paul Street
Houma, LA 70364

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