Duck numbers remain low as season grinds to a close

Duck numbers remain low as season grinds to a close

LITTLE ROCK – The 2015-16 Arkansas duck season ends Sunday, and hunters looking for a bright spot in a largely lackluster season won’t find it in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s latest aerial waterfowl survey report.

AGFC biologists conducted this season’s final aerial survey last week and reported numbers were basically unchanged from the annual midwinter survey conducted earlier this month. The Delta duck population index was just less than 1 million total ducks, including about 600,000 mallards.

Observers counted about 20.000 ducks in southwestern Arkansas, almost 15.000 of which were mallards, and about 47.000 ducks (about 34.000 mallards) in the Arkansas River Valley survey area. The Delta mallard estimate was well below the long-term average and had declined slightly from the 2016 midwinter survey earlier in January. Delta duck distribution showed few areas of concentration, while river valley distribution shifted noticeably eastward since the midwinter survey.

The latest survey was cut short by winter weather last week, so it wasn’t completed, likely leading to lower population estimates. The L’Anguille and Little River Ditches survey zones weren’t completed, and those survey zones typically account for about eight percent of the Delta’s mallard population, so if they had an average number of mallards during this survey period, the overall Delta mallard total might have been closer to 715,000, still a relatively low number for the late-January survey period.