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Survey Supports Reduced Duck Season

Media release from Eastern Fish & Game

Survey Supports Reduced Duck Season

Eastern Region’s four-week duck-hunting season has been justified by the early results from a Fish & Game survey of hunter success analysed this week.

The game bird season for mallard and grey duck will finish at Queen’s Birthday weekend in the Eastern Fish & Game Region, although upland game birds and other species such as paradise shelduck and black swan have a longer season extending into July and August.

"Our summer monitoring showed us that the population of mallard and grey duck was low and that was the basis of the Fish and Game Council’s decision to limit it to a four-week season," Eastern Fish & Game manager Rob Pitkethley said. "The opening day results from the hunter survey showed hunters had a low harvest and this certainly supports the reduced season length."

The survey showed that an estimated 11,500 mallard and grey ducks were harvested throughout the region, which stretches from Waihi Beach to Wairoa and includes the Bay of Plenty coastal reserves, parts of the Waikato River and Reporoa, forests including Rotoehu, and the Gisborne-East Coast district.

This figure was down from last year's estimated opening weekend harvest of 15,800, although better than the estimated 9500 birds harvested in 2003.

Eastern Region Fish & Game issued nearly 3400 licenses for the season so far, 200 down on last year, although the game bird hunter survey found only 53 percent of license holders actually went out on opening weekend compared to the normal average of 73 percent.

"We suspect this had a lot to do with the drought and hunters heading for their normal ponds were put off by the lack of water," Eastern Region Senior Fish & Game officer Matthew McDougall said. 

The flip side was the birds became more concentrated through the Eastern Region, heading for estuaries, rivers and lakes which weren't affected by the drought.  Hunters who ventured into these areas generally did well, while the average number of greys and mallards harvested was 6.3 birds per hunter, dipping slightly from the 6.5 last year but still well on a par with the last six years.

Recent rain has helped some of the drier areas to become more productive in the last few weeks and Fish & Game were encouraging hunters to get out for the rest of the season and make the most of inclement weather and better hunting opportunities.

While mallard and grey duck populations were lower this hunting season, paradise shelduck numbers appeared good with many hunters collecting their limit, especially in the Eastern Bay and East Cape areas.

Interestingly, South Island mallard numbers appear to be rising, with one possible explanation surfacing last week.

A mallard banded at the Kaituna Wildlife Management reserve in February, 2004 has been shot near Culverden in the Canterbury foothills.

Mr McDougall said it was rare to find a banded bird so far from home.

“Around 85 percent of our banded birds are found within 50km of where they were released, which tells us that people can have an impact locally if they undertake habitat work,” he said.  “It’s still really interesting to find these birds ranging much further afield, however, and it helps paint a picture of what ducks are capable of.”

The 10-year-old bird was 630km from where it was banded, putting it in the top-10 of distances between Eastern’s banding and recovery sites.  The record is a duck recovered in the Waiwera River in South Otago in 2008, a year after it was banded in the Ohuia Lagoon near Wairoa, 1027km north.

Fish & Game have received details of nearly 100 banded birds retrieved already this year – hunters who send in details also go into a draw to win one of 10 free game bird licenses for the 2014 season.

Eastern Fish & Game staff also had a transmitter returned this week, one of 46 fitted to birds in the 2011 season as part of an earlier tracking study.  It was harvested near Otamarakau on the Bay of Plenty coast between Pukehina and Matata. 


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