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Ruddy Duck wins Louisiana duck stamp contest

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Anthony J. Padgett of Noblesville, Indiana, has won the 2024 Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Competition sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). The annual contest, in its 36th year, determines the image on what is commonly called the Louisiana Duck Stamp.

Ruddy duck was the species selected for this year’s contest. Padgett’s painting features a ruddy duck on a still waterbody. A total of 12 entries were submitted for the contest from seven different states including Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio and Virginia. For the second year in a row, Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Indiana, was second. Guy Crittenden of Richmond, Virginia, was third.

Padgett won the 2009 Louisiana Duck Stamp contest during the “Retrievers Save Game” series, with a picture including mallards and a Chesapeake Bay retriever. He also has placed in the top three in the contest three of the last five years.

Padgett, who has won many wildlife art contests nationally, said he believes being able to depict his subject matter in its own environment helps portray each subject as naturally as possible. Padgett’s artwork has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for various wildlife conservation organizations throughout North America.

“Though the number of submissions was down this year, we still received high quality artwork for the judges to choose from,’’ said LDWF Waterfowl Program Manager Jason Olszak. “The selection of the winning entry, as always, proved to be a difficult decision, and at the end of the day we ended up with an extraordinary image to be displayed on the 2024 Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp.’’

The ruddy duck is a small diving duck, actually classified as a stiff-tailed duck, and it the only representative of the genus Oxyura in North America. Ruddy ducks are not generally pursued as an individual species but more generally harvested opportunistically and are not a large proportion of the bag of hunters as recent harvest estimates average around 1,200 ruddy ducks harvested in Louisiana per year. They breed primarily in freshwater wetlands of the prairie pothole region of the U.S. and Canada but also in the western U.S., Mexico and Caribbean.

They winter in all four flyways along the southern portion of the lower-48 states and up each coast as far as Massachusetts and Washington, in addition to Mexico and the Caribbean. Their nesting habit includes shallow freshwater wetlands with considerable emergent vegetation, within which they construct their nests.

Judges for this year’s contest were: Richard Christopher Davis of Hillsdale/Amite, Louisiana, an artist, owner of RC Davis Gallery and the 1998 Louisiana Duck Stamp Competition winner; Gypsy Hanks of Farmerville, a USFWS wildlife biologist who has banded and surveyed thousands of waterfowl and enjoys wildlife painting; Chuck Smith of Pine Grove, a former LDWF waterfowl biologist who served as Louisiana’s representative on the Mississippi Flyway Council Tech Section for eight years; Dr. Joseph Lancaster of Youngsville, the biological team leader for the Gulf Coast Joint Venture where he’s focused on waterfowl habitat conservation and planning since 2019; and Elaine Erikson of New Orleans and St. Francisville, an artist since retiring in 2014 and the 2022 Louisiana Duck Stamp Contest winner.

The Louisiana Legislature authorized the Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp program in 1988. The program was created to generate revenue for conservation and enhancement of waterfowl populations and habitats in Louisiana. Since 1989, more than $15 million has been generated for wetland. An average of $400,000 per year is available for wetland and waterfowl habitat.

Revenues have supported wetland development projects on wildlife management areas and the Louisiana Waterfowl Project, a cooperative endeavor between LDWF, Ducks Unlimited, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide habitat for waterfowl and other wetland birds on private lands.

The 2024 stamp will go on sale June 1, 2024. The artist will retain the original artwork and will have reproduction rights to the image for prints and other commodities after LDWF has used the image to produce the stamps.

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