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Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 165,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, department migratory game bird biologist, said an estimated 67,200 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River from MacLean Bottoms Wildlife Management Area south of Bismarck to Garrison Dam. An additional 65,100 Canada geese were observed on the lower portion of Lake Sakakawea, which still had substantial open water during this year’s survey. Nelson Lake in Oliver County was also holding 13,600 Canada geese and the remainder were scattered throughout the state in areas with open water.

Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 34,200 mallards were tallied statewide. Most were observed on Lake Sakakawea and on Nelson Lake.

“We’ve had an unusually mild winter with little snow accumulation. Availability of food should have been good and overall wintering conditions were excellent,” he said.

The first large waves of migrating waterfowl, according to Dinges, occurred during the last two weeks in October.

“After that short cold spell, above average temperatures, with little snow accumulation, allowed birds to remain in the state on the Missouri River System up until the survey date,” he said. “In addition, several reservoirs in the state that are typically frozen by late November had small pockets of open water and were still holding some birds.”

The 10-year average (2011-20) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 107,400 Canada geese and 21,800 mallards.

All states participate in the midwinter survey