Calif. duck population down following historic drought

Calif. duck population impacted by drought

California's duck population is down this year, and the five-year drought the state is now out of plays a role in that.

Regina Stafford with the California Waterfowl Association — or Cal Waterfowl — said water is good for ducks, but there's usually about a year lag in population after a drought is finally over.

"The actual hatch this year, you know, what we've been seeing in the field is lots of baby ducklings and lots of good-sized broods, but that doesn't necessarily reflect the breeding duck count," she said.

Stafford said she hopes the state sees a full bounce back of the population next year, pending what Mother Nature has in store.

Cal Waterfowl has been around for decades, but a program of theirs just three years old is really taking off and helping bolster the population of ducks and other nesting waterfowl.

It's called the Egg Salvage Program, which Stafford oversees. It's just wrapping up its third season.

The program is an opportunity for farmers and conservationists to work hand-in-hand. Ducks love farmers' fields and the areas around them because of all the ground cover and water. Sometimes, however, egg laying season and harvest season overlap. If those eggs aren't removed from the field, a farmer - without knowing - may end up destroying that nest.

"This [program] gives the farmers an opportunity to work with us at California Waterfowl to salvage those eggs under our federal permit to do so," Stafford explained. "Those eggs are taken to a hatchery and incubated, hatched out, reared and then banded and released back into the wild."

Now in its third season, the Egg Salvage Program partnered with more than 50 farmers this year to save about 3,500 eggs.

"That connection to nature is what we all kind of crave as human beings," Stafford said. "That's why we should care, is because we're all on this planet together, right?"

Stafford said farmland and suburban and urban sprawl are increasingly encroaching on ducks' habitat and nesting areas.

Learn more about Cal Waterfowl's work HERE.

Another program aims to search for nests in rice fields and count eggs before they hatch. It's a partnership between the California Rice Commission, Delta Waterfowl, UC Davis, California Waterfowl and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Learn more about that HERE.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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