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Spring breeding duck population down in North Dakota, but still above average

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — The number of breeding ducks in North Dakota last spring was down significantly from the previous year due to weather conditions, but still well above the long-term average.

An annual survey conducted by the state Game and Fish Department estimated about 3.6 million birds, down 25 percent from 2014.

The spring migration was well ahead of normal due to warm temperatures and open fields, according to Migratory Game Bird Supervisor Mike Szymanski.

"Early migrants such as mallards, pintails and northern shovelers didn't stay long due to the dry conditions," he said.

However, the survey tally is still 55 percent above the long-term average. The duck population has been larger than average for more than a decade, Szymanski said.

A July brood survey will give a better idea of duck production and provide more insight into expectations for fall hunting.

"Our observations to date indicate that production will again be high across the state due to improved water conditions since the (breeding duck) survey and increased wetland availability for brood production," he said.

Officials last spring concluded that the amount of water in North Dakota available to ducks was down nearly 50 percent from the previous year, but frequent rains in the weeks following the survey filled many wetlands and ditches, according to Szymanski.

"Substantial rainfall occurred in mid-May throughout most of the state, and wet conditions persisted through most of June," he said.

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