The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated 71,500 birds were in the state.
Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist, said an estimated 40,700 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 12,000 were scattered on Nelson Lake. Lake Sakakawea, declared iced-over on Dec. 14, had no geese on the lake itself. Szymanski said after summarizing the numbers, a total of 52,700 Canada geese and 18,700 mallards were tallied statewide.
“Conditions leading up to this year’s survey were colder than normal, resulting in fewer birds in the state compared to the past couple winters,” Szymanski said. “Most waterfowl were pushed from North Dakota just prior to Thanksgiving, with the exception of those using the Missouri River System.”
According to Szymanski, early December cold temperatures and strong winds pushed most Missouri River birds from the state. Conditions remained the same through most of January, essentially causing all waters in the state to freeze by the time of the survey, with the exception of a few places with fast moving, or warm water.
Overall, Szymanski said although the counts are lower than those observed during the past couple years, numbers of birds remaining in the state are surprisingly large given the harsh weather conditions experienced thus far.
“Snow cover was probably borderline for allowing birds to feed without too much trouble,” he added. “If more snow had fallen in December, this year’s count would have been even lower.”