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Waterfowl: The Issue in Brief
For many waterfowl hunters, global warming is no longer a theory to be debated but a fact to be reckoned with. It’s already affecting the way they hunt, the success of their hunts and the timing of their hunts.
While waterfowlers are accustomed to major variations in the number of ducks and geese in the flyways, historically the timing of migrations has been predictable enough for many hunters to plan their trips years in advance. “I’ve been hunting the Missouri River for 40 years, and I could always count on birds’ being here by the first week in November,” says Tony Dean, noted outdoorsman and conservation communicator from South Dakota. “But the migration has been getting later and later. Last year we saw more ducks in the closing days of the season than we’d seen at any other time in the year. Global warming isn’t some kind of nerdy abstraction; it’s what I deal with every time I throw out my decoys.”
Dean is not alone in his experience. Hunters from the Dakotas to Louisiana, from California to Virginia are reporting that migrations are occurring later in the season — and in some instances, not occurring at all. “Here in the central flyway, there are large numbers of Canada geese that are cutting short their southern migrations,” says John Cooper, former U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent and retired secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “Geese that used to winter along the Missouri River in Nebraska and South Dakota now seem to be ending their migrations as far north as Bismarck, North Dakota.”
It might appear that late migrations and changes in routes are more frustrating than alarming. It would seem that seasons could simply be moved back and that a shift in migration patterns could be one hunter’s loss but another’s gain.
Like a jump in the number of white cells, though,
these changes are markers for what will become a cancer
on the waterfowler’s world. Scientists fear that in the years
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