It turns out that 2012 was a great year for the birds. Until hunting season came around.
Then it became a good time to be a hunter.
Hunters dubbed the 2012 Minnesota waterfowl season a success on the opening day of the season according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The season benefited from fewer waterfowl hunting regulations and an earlier opening season date.
It even seemed that the hunting season had some assistance from Mother Nature herself.
Still, wildlife officials worry that the future of the sport may be in jeopardy.
The success of the 2012 waterfowl season was due to dry conditions and a decrease in the waterfowl’s natural habitat.
Federal laws protect wetlands nationwide, but even with Minnesota’s unique state laws, the quality of wetlands has decreased, state officials say.
“Dry conditions and habitat loss will have significant negative consequences for ducks in future years,” Steve Cordts, the waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said in a press release.
In the past, 650,000 ducks were shot on average each season. The official harvest numbers for the 2012 waterfowl season will be available in the summer.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive reports from hunters,” Cordts said. “Most [hunters] seemed very satisfied. If the reports are good on opening weekend, generally our harvest is going to be pretty good when we get harvest reports for the summer.”
The health of the habitat may be the key to successful waterfowl seasons in the future.
Chemical drainage into habitats, invasive species such as Asian Carp in shallow wetland regions and urbanization are all contributors to waterfowl population health.
It is debatable whether the 2012 waterfowl season indicates the health of hunting seasons to come. In the meantime, hunters and environmental activists are keeping their fingers crossed that Minnesota waterfowl won’t be disappearing anytime soon.