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Current LDWF Duck estimates – record low

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LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE & FISHERIES

More significantly, annual decreases were observed in the species that make up the largest proportion of Louisiana’s wintering ducks and bag limits: gadwall (-54%), green-winged teal (-60%), blue-winged teal (-23%), and pintail (-12%). The estimate for scaup was less than 1,000 and the mottled duck estimate remained unchanged from the 19,000 observed in November 2022. Not included in the table, 15,000 black-bellied whistling ducks were estimated in the Southwest. The state experienced prolonged drought conditions during summer 2023, and southwest Louisiana was the most severely affected. Nevertheless, 71% of the ducks estimated in the coastal region occurred in this geography.

Duck estimates from coastal and Little River basin and difference from previous year, and most recent 5-, and 10-year averages.

Southwest Louisiana continues to experience the worst drought conditions in at least 20 years. Though the physical arrangement of water has changed in select areas since September due to localized & discontinuous regional pumping of agricultural fields and interior managed marshes, there continues to be a large-scale paucity of water on the landscape. Areas such as Lacassine Pool, Cameron Prairie, & White Lake WCA have dried noticeably since September. Recent pumping at Rockefeller has increased available wetlands on a small portion of the refuge overall. Similar to September, roughly 5% of the rice-crawfish agricultural region in and around the parishes of Jefferson Davis, Acadia, and Vermillion is holding surface water. Freshwater Bayou, as in September, is the line of transition to more normal water levels farther East. The largest concentration of ducks observed in southwest were in pumped agricultural fields west of Bayou Lacassine. Only a few hundred geese were observed from transects during this survey, though larger known concentrations have been observed by regional staff on the ground in recent weeks.

Southeast Louisiana – 148,000

Wetland habitats in the Southeast are relatively unchanged. Marshes south of Houma continue to hold good amounts of SAV and ducks, but also continue to hold large expanses of water hyacinth. Barrataria Bay marshes are in similar condition, but holding far fewer ducks. Water levels at the mouth of the Mississippi appear slightly depressed. However, any change in total wetland area is undetectable, and the quality and amount of SAV is on par with average. Very few ducks were observed in the Delacroix marshes as there appeared to be a higher than normal amount of human activity along the transect the day it was flown. About 100 light geese were observed at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Little River Basin – 69,000

With a gauge reading of 28.7 M.S.L. at the time of the survey, nearly 80% of the basin was holding shallow water with the exception of the far northeast and Stock Landing regions, which were completely dry. This is similar to November 2022 when the gauge read 28.1, and dabbling ducks made up the largest proportion of waterfowl counted. Pintails, again were the most numerous species with an increase of 35% from the November 2022 count of 26,000. Wild millet coverage is substantial in the center part of the basin, where moist conditions persisted throughout the duration of the summer’s drought. The margins of the basin, however, produced lesser amounts of herbaceous waterfowl food producing plants, and woody (water elm, swamp privet, and black willow) encroachment continues to advance.

The NE survey will not be complete until Nov. 17. The results of the northeast survey will no longer be reported along with the Coastal/LRB/NW report and will be distributed separately when it is completed.

Northwest Louisiana – 8,000

The 8,000 ducks counted in northwest Louisiana is a 53% decline from last November’s estimate of 17,000. The estimate is 11% below the latest 5-year average (9,000) and equal to the latest 10-year average. Gadwall made up the largest portion of the waterfowl counted in northwest Louisiana (40%), while green-winged teal were second at 10%. Mallards, scaup, and ring-necked ducks each made up 9% of the total. The largest concentration of birds was found between Lock 5 of the Red River and Shreveport, with other concentrations on Toledo bend and Black Lake at Campti. An additional 150 geese and 4,200 coots were estimated.

Overall, drought conditions resulted in very little available water on the landscape for waterfowl use. Drains, sloughs, brakes, and ponds outside of the river channel were either choked out by vegetation due to low water levels or completely dry. The river channel, oxbows, stock ponds, and artificially pumped wetlands on both public and private land comprised the only water available on the landscape. Water levels at Wallace Lake, Lake Bistineau, Toledo Bend, and Grand Bayou were extremely low, resulting in mudflats. Caddo, Hosston, and Cross Lakes had sufficient water levels, but lacked the usual number of diver species present in past surveys. Nearly all agricultural fields along the river, from the Cloutierville to the Arkansas line were dry as well. Privately managed impoundments, in addition to some tracts of Red River NWR and Bayou Pierre WMA, had very little water but were in the process of being filled. Contrary to past years however, these wetlands lacked significant concentrations of waterfowl.

The first segment of the West Zone duck season begins Saturday, November 11 and ends Sunday, December 3. Following a first (7-day) split, it will re-open on Monday, December 11 and continue until Sunday, January 7. Following the second (5-day) split the West Zone will again re- open from Saturday, January 13 to the final day of the duck season, January 21.

The duck season in the East Zone opens Saturday, November 18 and runs until Sunday, December 3. Following the single (12-day) split, it will re-open on Saturday, December 16 and continue until Sunday, January 28.

New: Reminder that the daily bag limit for mottled ducks is 0 for the first 15 days of the season, regardless of the zone being hunted, and will be 1 per day for the remaining 45 days.

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