Last July I sent out a warning about the duck population in Wisconsin. Last year, out of 40 hens only three hens reproduced and had 14 ducklings. The year before (2014), we had about 20 hens, and just about all had young, averaging 10 ducklings each. Avian flu pretty much wiped out reproduction last year and prompted my warnings about stopping the hunt that fall. Nobody listened!
This year, the population of adult ducks is down about 75% from 2015 levels. So far, we have three hens that haven’t nested, five hens that have come off the nest with nothing, and four hens with a total of 20 ducklings. I hope the three hens holding out will go to nest soon. I also hope that these ducklings will be resistant to the effects of avian flu.
It appears that the egg laying reduction caused by avian flu is permanent in some of the adults and rendering them sterile. With half the population sterile, another hunt will seriously reduce adult numbers. We cannot afford to kill any of the adult ducks capable of reproducing again. I recommend a complete halt to duck hunting for at least a year to two years to let numbers recover. If they start reproducing again, like 2014, we’re out of the woods!
This year the Canadian goose population also seems affected, though there are active reduction efforts being used nearby. Both pairs that nested locally did not reproduce. Both nests had dead eggs. Both pairs are multi-year residents and keep nesting in the same locations. They have been quite prolific in years past, averaging 10 goslings a year. I heard a report that wild turkeys are also being affected this year.
For the survivalist, avian flu has put a big dent into any ideas of living off wild game. If proper conservation is not practiced, we will lose this resource, both for sport and survival. Capt Nemo