The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated 159,000 birds were still hanging around the state.
Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist, said an estimated 123,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 2,100 were scattered on Nelson Lake. Lake Sakakawea, declared frozen over on Dec. 26, had only about 100 geese near the Garrison Dam intake structure. Szymanski said after summarizing the numbers, a total of 127,000 Canada geese and 31,700 mallards were tallied statewide.
“Conditions for this year’s survey were much more normal and starkly contrasted last year’s extremely mild conditions that resulted in a record count of 279,000 birds,” he said. “A strong winter storm that occurred on Veteran’s Day weekend pushed most waterfowl from North Dakota. In addition, essentially all water in the state was frozen at the time of this year’s survey, with the exception of a few places with fast moving, or warm water.”
Overall, Szymanski said the numbers of birds are somewhat surprising given some harsh weather conditions experienced thus far. “However, relatively shallow snow cover has allowed birds to feed without too much trouble,” he added. “If heavy snow had fallen in the western part of the state, this year’s count would have been much lower.”