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Associated Press, Published June 13 2013

Breeding duck population drops in North Dakota

BISMARCK — The population of breeding ducks in North Dakota appears healthy despite a drop in size from last year, state wildlife officials say.

The Game and Fish Department said its annual spring breeding duck survey indicated a population of about 3.9 million birds, down 17 percent from last year but 73 percent above the long-term average, which includes the period from 1948 to 2012.

"Duck numbers are still really good," Game and Fish waterfowl biologist Mike Szymanski said.

The reason for the over-the-year decline appears to be that small wetlands were not holding much water and large wetlands were still frozen when ducks were migrating north.

"The somewhat poor wetland conditions probably resulted in losing ducks to Canadian nesting grounds," Szymanski said.

A July brood survey will provide insight into duck production and the prospects for a good fall hunt, Game and Fish said. One factor will be the continued loss of grassland habitat as farmers till more land for lucrative crops.

"The loss of grass will hurt production of ducks and other grassland nesting birds," Szymanski said. "However, the recent overly wet conditions will also help bridge the gap a little bit for ducks."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.