The widespread proliferation of small predators throughout duck nesting ranges long has been suspected as a primary cause of declining waterfowl. Now scientists at Delta Waterfowl Foundation think they have proved this with a pilot predator control project near Cando, N.D.
Delta isolated two blocks of private pothole lands of 16 square miles apiece. One had 300 predators removed - mostly fox, raccoon and skunk - bringing it closer to predator population levels that existed before numbers exploded with changed farming practices.
The other’s predator population was left intact. Frank Rohwer, Delta’s research director, called the results dramatic. Ducks nesting in upland cover within the predator-controlled block had a 71 percent nesting success. Those in the untouched block had only 14 percent nest success.
Lloyd Jones, Delta’s head of field operations, said low fur prices and legal reduction of larger predators like wolves and coyotes have allowed small predators to move unscathed into areas where they never existed before.