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Estimates and Determinants of Duck Production in North Park, Colorado
Estimates and Determinants of Duck Production in North Park, Colorado

Led By

Adam C. Behney and James H. Gammonley in collaboration with Casey M. Setash and David N. Koons (Colorado State University)

Study Area

Jackson County

Project Status

In progress

Research Objectives

  • Use satellite imagery and annual measures of hydrology, salinity, and vegetation composition and structure on a representative sample of wetlands to quantify wetland habitat conditions annually.
  • Use breeding pair counts, adjusted for detection probability, on a sample of wetlands to estimate overall breeding populations of ducks annually.
  • Assess nest site selection and nest survival for nests located on private and public land to estimate habitat effects on reproductive success.
  • Use brood counts, adjusted for detection probability, on a sample of wetlands to estimate duck production annually.
  • Use annual pre-season capture and banding of ducks to estimate annual survival rates, fidelity rates, harvest rates, and harvest distribution.

Project Description

North Park (Jackson County) has historically been an important breeding area for ducks in Colorado. In the 1970s and 1980s, duck hunters in numerous areas harvested ducks banded in North Park, but most species were harvested mainly in Central and Pacific Flyway states; in particular, mallards banded in North Park were harvested primarily in Colorado. Assuming these breeding population and harvest distribution patterns have remained consistent over time, maintaining or increasing duck production in North Park would benefit waterfowl hunters and non-consumptive users of waterfowl across Colorado and the surrounding region. However, no consistent monitoring of duck populations has been done in recent decades. 

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Wetland Wildlife Conservation Program (Wetland Program) and its partners have invested in numerous habitat conservation projects in North Park, most of which are intended to improve habitat for breeding ducks. By annually quantifying wetland habitat conditions and the distribution, abundance, and productivity of ducks in North Park from spring arrival through brood production, we can improve our understanding of the contribution of different wetland habitats (and specific types of wetland conservation projects) to duck populations, and evaluate whether we are achieving the Wetland Program objectives for this priority area. 

Although some information is available on the wildlife value of intermountain wetlands and some aspects of how these wetland systems function, there are important gaps in our understanding of duck ecology in the intermountain West. Basic information about wetland habitats in North Park is available, but uncertainty exists about how breeding ducks respond to wetland conditions, and the optimal way to manage habitats to increase annual duck production. Habitat conservation activities are continuing, despite these uncertainties. We have established a long-term monitoring and research program to inform management decisions and reduce uncertainties (i.e., improve conservation program efficiencies) in North Park over time. Key stakeholders in this effort include CPW, Ducks Unlimited Inc., IWJV, private landowners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, Colorado State University (CSU) is conducting research on fine-scaled habitat selection by mallards and gadwalls in North Park, and CPW and CSU are coordinating closely on these projects. 

Associated Publications