State's Duck Population Declining after Summer Drought

DECEMBER 15, 2005 - Posted at 7:58 a.m. CST

BRINKLEY, AR - Duck experts say that hunters in what are normally wetlands will find little water and much fewer ducks than normal in Arkansas because of drought conditions during the summer.

But Andrew James of the state Game and Fish Commission says that, if hunters find places there's lots of water, they're likely to find lots of ducks.  James, the agency's waterfowl program coordinator, said the dry conditions really concentrate the ducks in areas where there is water.

James said aerial surveys this year showed 289,589 ducks, compared to 588,380 during the same time last year, a drop of 48 percent.  He said the five-year average for the December survey is 638,400 ducks.

James said private duck clubs and public lands that have the ability to pump water into fields to attract ducks are having a good season.  But that water comes from aquifers that slowly are dropping.

But he said the low water and low duck numbers aren't any reason for Arkansas hunters to worry, because it's all part of a cycle.  He said nobody wants to have a dry year, but it's really beneficial for the waterfowl habitat...soil, trees, and other plants to be dry.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)