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Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 29,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, department migratory game bird biologist, said a low count was expected this year for wintering waterfowl given the substantial snowfall and cold temperatures in November and December leading up to the survey.

“We’ve had well above average snowfall already, especially in the central part of the state where most of our birds typically winter along the Missouri River System,” Dinges said. “Much of this area had received over 50 inches of snow before the survey, which has made access to waste grains difficult for birds and overall wintering conditions have been poor for waterfowl.”

In addition, Lake Sakakawea iced over on Dec. 18, which was one of the earliest dates for freeze up in recent years. In four of the last 10 years the lower portion of Sakakawea has still had substantial open water in early January and needed to be completely surveyed by air. 

During the recent survey, an estimated 24,400 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 4,400 on Nelson Lake in Oliver County. Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 5,900 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake.

The 10-year average (2013-22) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 112,200 Canada geese and 16,500 mallards.

All states in the Central Flyway participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame, to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once.