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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Factors Associated with Duck Nest Success
in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada

Management and Research Recommendations

  1. Large tracts of grassland that remain in the PPR should be protected from cultivation and other manipulation (e.g., pasture "improvement" through elimination of brush) that would reduce their value to nesting ducks.

  2. Nest success, habitat composition, and predator populations should be assessed periodically throughout the PPR to provide current information for management decisions. Change from a predator community dominated by red foxes to one dominated by coyotes can result in marked changes in productivity of ducks.

  3. Management efforts to increase duck production need to consider habitat and predator effects simultaneously. Management applied at the landscape level (e.g., restoration of wetlands, planting of upland nesting cover) likely will be most effective in increasing duck production when conducted in regions where nest success is highest. Management applied at the local level (e.g., erection of predator barriers, intensive predator management) may be more appropriate in regions where nest success is low. Some management (e.g., restoration of wetlands, planting isolated fields of upland nesting cover) applied where nest success is low actually may be counterproductive by drawing ducks to areas where there is low probability they will nest successfully and where they otherwise may not have settled.

  4. Management to protect coyotes in sufficient numbers to exclude red foxes should be encouraged where possible in areas suitable for duck production in the PPR. Population densities at which coyotes are most favorable to nesting ducks without inflicting unacceptable damage to livestock and other desirable wildlife species should be determined.

  5. Research should address the relations among predator community composition, predator abundance, habitat type, block size, and duck nest success. Estimates of variability in duckling survival rates, in addition to nest success rates, are needed to more accurately predict effects of management applications on duck populations.

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