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Canvasback Mortality from Illegal Hunting on the Upper Mississippi River

Management Implications

A few areas continue to provide critical habitat for canvasbacks during fall migration and also serve as popular areas for hunters. Efforts should continue to provide canvasbacks with optimum habitat conditions by promoting growth of preferred plant and animal food resources (Korschgen et al. 1988, Haramis 1991, Kahl 1991) and by creating additional habitat where possible. Minimizing disturbance to migrating birds through programs such as voluntary waterfowl avoidance areas, sanctuaries, and refuges is also critical.

The high rates of hunter attempts to shoot at canvasbacks (24% of encounters in 1991, 31% of encounters in 1992) remain a management concern. To reduce canvasback losses, managers should continue to sponsor hunter awareness programs and increase law enforcement activities. Additional protection may also be provided to canvasbacks by adjusting the boundaries of areas where waterfowl hunting is allowed. Green (W. E. Green, USFWS, Winona, Minn., unpubl. rep., 1974) and Hochbaum et al. (1982) offered similar recommendations to abate severe hunting pressure on canvasbacks on the Upper Mississippi River and at Delta Marsh, Manitoba, respectively. Altering the waterfowl season so that hunting is scheduled to avoid periods when peak numbers of canvasbacks are present should reduce encounters with canvasbacks. Compulsory waterfowl training programs could be implemented that provide instruction in waterfowl identification and hunter ethics for all waterfowlers that hunt where canvasbacks occur.

There is a national need to more precisely estimate the hunting mortality of canvasbacks so that regulatory programs can account for this loss. The kind of monitoring program used to evaluate the effect of hunting on canvasbacks on Lake Onalaska could be used to determine losses on other important canvasback migration or wintering areas.

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