Southern California environment news and trends

Like rabbits: North American duck populations hit all-time high

Dustin and Jenae DeKoekkoek/Flickr Creative Commons

Some ducks hanging out near the inlet of a detention pond.

It’s been a good season for ducks – literally. According to a new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, duck populations in the United States and Canada has reached the highest levels ever recorded, with a total estimate of 48.6 million breeding ducks in North America. That equals a seven percent increase over the 2011 estimate of 45.6 million ducks, and a full 43 percent over the long-term average of the last fifty years. It’s an annual survey conducted jointly with the Canadian Wildlife Service that covers more than two million miles of waterfowl habitat across the two countries.

"This is the highest duck count since we started the survey in 1955," said Dr. Frank Rohwer, scientific director of Delta Waterfowl. "We had excellent wetland conditions in 2011, the second-highest pond count ever. So last year, we made a pile of ducks. This year, we're counting them." Mallards, Pintails, Shovelers and Canvasbacks are just some of the ducks species counted in the survey.

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Southern California’s ‘no otter’ zone on the brink of elimination

Michael "Mike" L. Baird/Flickr

It was announced last week that the California Coastal Commission has confirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest proposal to end the 1987 “no otter” zone program is good and in line with protection policies of the California Coastal Act. The Commission’s approval is the latest step in repealing the unsuccessful “otter translocation program” that barred southern sea otters from California waters south of Point Conception outside of a very specific location.

“The original purpose of the ruling was to protect the otters after they were deemed an endangered species, so there were good intentions,” explained Brian Segee, staff attorney with the Environmental Defense Center, when reached by telephone. “But as the translocation program moved forward, it was an obvious failure.”

The program had been designed to repopulate Southern California waters with sea otters translocated from the Central Coast, the caveat being they remain confined to San Nicolas Island and the surrounding area. The rest of the Southern California coast was deemed the aforementioned “no otter" zone. It didn’t work.

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