Save California Mallards!
Save California Mallards!
The mallard population within the State of California has been in a steady state of decline for nearly two decades as shown by both breeding population surveys and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Harvest Information Program (HIP) data mallards. Mallards are migratory birds, but the numerous years of drought experienced by the state along with changing winter weather patterns has kept migrants away from California. The current population of mallards in this state is largely sustained by a resident breeding population of birds that rarely or never leave the state. Something must be done!
Currently, the USFWS makes waterfowl season and limit guidelines based on population surveys and mathematical models. These recommendations are designed to maximize hunter opportunity while maintaining sustainability. Unfortunately, these models are designed to address populations at a Flyway (multiple states) and/or continental level. As such, they are not the best tool available for the management of local, non-migratory populations. The current mallard limit and season recommendations for the Pacific Flyway (which includes California) are 7 mallards/day (with no more than 2 females) and a 100 day season. States may choose to adopt regulations that are more restrictive than the USFWS recommendations, but are prohibited from adopting regulations that are less resistance.
Recently, in an effort to reduce mallard harvest in California, the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) Board of Directors voted to recommend that the state adopt mallard regulations that set the daily limit at 5 (with no more than 1 female) and a 100 day season. According to the most recent HIP data, California hunters harvested an average of 0.4 mallards per hunt day and 3.2 per season for a total of approximately 150K mallards. Biologists employed by CWA as well those employed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have advised the board that much more restrictive regulations than those recommended by the board would be required in order make any reduction in overall harvest.
We do believe that something needs to be done, but CWA’s recommendation is not enough. According to the experts in the field, it is the same as doing nothing at all. That is why we believe that a more focused solution that actually reduces mallard harvest is required. We propose that the Commission use existing HIP data (which contains county level data) to identify the area(s) where mallards are most susceptible to hunter harvest and adopt more restrictive regulations for that area only. We recommend a 3 mallard/day (with only 1 hen) limit and a 60 day season for this area(s). There is already regulatory precedent for such an approach with the regulations managing the harvest of Tule White Fronted Geese.
We believe that adoption of these regulations (or something similar) will not only have a meaningful impact on the California mallard population but will also significantly reduce the number of stakeholders who are negatively impacted by mallard conservation efforts.