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Ecology and Management of Islands, Peninsulas and Structures for Nesting Waterfowl


Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Jamestown, North Dakota 58402

Islands, peninsulas, electric fences and nesting structures are all situations where nesting waterfowl are isolated from predators. Management techniques associated with predator exclusion have taken their inspiration from natural situations. This Symposium is intended to bring forth experiences from the broadest possible range. As you listen, be willing to share your questions and comments. A quiet, orderly session with no interaction between the audience and speakers is pretty boring.

There has been much interest in having an open discussion session during the Symposium where issues of mutual interest can be explored. Some of the topics suggested are availability of predicides, research needs, economics of various intensive management techniques, egg collecting from islands, pros and cons of nest monitoring, etc. In response to the demand, we have scheduled a special session Wednesday evening. Those of you are not on the program, but have experiences to share or problems to discuss, please use this open session as a chance to enrich the group.

If I had the opportunity to be granted one wish in regard to this symposium, it would be that the participants would develop a clearer picture of the biological and practical possibilities of points, islands, structures and electric fences. Along with this, I would hope administrators would insist upon goals that are logical and set up procedures for consistent progress toward those goals. Too many managers do things without a complete understanding of goals or proper use of management tools. Knowledge and communication are the keys to dispelling ignorance.

I would like to comment on the major subjects of the Symposium. This is not to steal the thunder of the presenters, but to set the stage with a brief overview.

We have seen some outstanding waterfowl nesting concentrations and success stories on islands. We must learn from these situations, monitor them closely and insure their continued success. We must not dwell on these successes but move ahead to new and different situations and achieve goals of even higher levels. Islands comprise a small part of the total universe and eventually we need to apply management realization achieved on islands to larger land units.

Islands have been recognized as superior waterfowl nesting habitats for some time (Hammond and Mann. 1956, Hilden, 0. 1964) and have long been used to enhance waterfowl productivity. Interest in managing islands for waterfowl was recently sparked with the discovery of super high mallard and gadwall nest densities and success at Miller Lake island in North Dakota (Duebbert et al. 1983, Lokemoen et al. 1984) and the success of man-made islands in Canada (Giroux, J.F. 1981). Also, there is increased interest in management of predator-free sites due to the severe impact of predation in many upland nesting habitats.

With the excellent payoffs from island management, managers are justified in intensifying management for waterfowl on islands in the Great Plains. There is an immediate need to use existing photography and satellite imagery to identify islands for management. Many islands have good potential for waterfowl production and there is little conflict with farming interests. On suitable islands with conflicting agricultural uses managers might be able to lease the site or obtain management rights by trade or other agreements. The most common management practice on islands will be to remove predators. However, on suitable islands without proper nesting habitats managers could add low shrub or grass-legume cover.

On some sites it is possible to create islands by excavating a moat barrier at the base of a peninsula or building an island in a lake. Man-made islands can be developed into productive habitats for breeding waterfowl with proper cover and adequate predator removal. Man-made islands are quite expensive so we need to construct and manage these developments carefully and with the best knowledge available.

Island-like environments have been created in recent years by use of electric barriers to deter predator movements (Forster 1975, Lokemoen et al. 1982, Arnold 1983).Electric barriers are costly to construct and manage but they allow managers to reduce predation at specific locations without controlling predators on large adjacent home ranges. Also, although initial management costs for fences are high the resulting cost of ducks fledged are less than many options where management costs are low but ducklings are recruited at a low rate (Lokemoen 1984). In the near future electric barriers will most likely become more numerous as managers attempt to increase production on lands that produce little today because of severe predation. In the more distant future we will need new tools such as adversives to manage predators on a broader scale.

Early high use and success of waterfowl in nest baskets (Lee et al. 1967) have declined in recent years but many new experiments with hay bales, floating platforms, tiny islands are underway and some may prove beneficial. However, new techniques should not be applied on a large scale until the system has undergone sincere evaluation.

I know that new ideas and increased activities will result from this gathering. We must utilize the cumulative knowledge assembled here to develop up-to-date guidelines for management islands, electric barriers and nest structures. Also, I hope this meeting will generate some new considerations for research and management direction in the future.

Literature Cited

ARNOLD, P. M. 1983. A wetland manager's view of waterfowl production in North 
     Dakota. Naturalist 34:20-24.
DUEBBERT, H. F., J. T. LOKEMOEN, AND D. E. SHARP. 1983.  Concentrated nesting 
     of mallards and gadwalls on Miller Lake Island, North Dakota. J. Wildl. 
     Manage. 47:729-740.
FORSTER, J. A. 1975. Electric fencing to protect sandwich terns against foxes. 
     Biol. Conserv. 7:85.
GIROUX, J. F. 1981. Use of artificial islands by nesting waterfowl in 
     southeastern Alberta. J. Wildl. Manage. 45:669-679.
HAMMOND, M. C., AND G. E. MANN. 1956. Waterfowl nesting islands. J. Wildl. 
     Manage. 20:345-352.
HILDEN, 0. 1964. Ecology of duck populations in the island group of Valassaaret, 
     Gulf of Bothnia. Ann. Zool. Fenn. 1:153-279.
LEE,F. B., A. D. KRUSE, AND W. H. THORNSBERRY. 1967. An evaluation of certain 
     types of artificial nesting structures for ducks. Proc. 29th Midwest Fish 
     Wildl. Conf., Madison, Wisc. 30 pp.
LOKEMOEN, J. T., H. A. DOTY, D. E. SHARP, AND J. E. NEAVILLE. 1982. Electric 
     fences to reduce mammalian predation on waterfowl nests. Wildl. Soc. 
     Bull. 10:318-323.
LOKEMOEN, J. T., H. F. DUEBBERT, AND D. E. SHARP. 1984. Nest spacing, habitat 
     selection, and behavior of waterfowl on Miller Lake Island, North Dakota. 
     J. Wildl. Manage. 48:309-321.
LOKEMOEN, J. T. 1984. Examining economic efficiency of management practices 
     that enhance waterfowl production. Trans. N. Am. Wildl. Resour. Conf. 

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