Wildlife - Waterfowl Project Report

April 2005

SC Duck Stamp Program

Since 1981-82 a SC duck stamp has been required to be purchased and in possession of all hunters while pursuing waterfowl. Enabling legislation requires SC duck stamp revenues to be spent on waterfowl projects in SC. Table XV provides information on duck stamp sales and revenue 1981-82 through 2004-05, and Figure 11 demonstrates trends in ducks stamp sales, e.g., the approximate number of waterfowl hunters in SC during the same period. Table XVI provides an analysis of approved SC Duck Stamp Budgets during 2003-04 and 2004-05.

Waterfowl Benchmarks

Benchmarks or goals are necessary planning tools to ensure adequate effort and vision are being expended to address and work toward favorable resolution of issues including those affecting natural resources. Considerable data are available concerning waterfowl migrating to or through SC, and these data can be used to establish baselines and develop benchmarks indicating trends. The following benchmarks identify achievable goals reaching or exceeding tabulated high points, long-term averages or trends. Meeting these benchmarks will provide additional opportunity for over 25,000 SC waterfowl hunters to enjoy improved quality in recreational duck hunting and provide many benefits to SC citizens interested in waterfowl for purposes other than hunting.

These benchmarks were developed by DNR staff and accepted by the Waterfowl Advisory Committee. Status and achievements are indicated in italics following each stated benchmark.

Population Benchmarks

  1. Increase mottled duck population in SC (as revealed by an annual fall survey, some baseline data available): No annual fall surveys have been undertaken as of this time
  2. Increase the number of wood ducks produced in SC (utilizing trends in certain nest box data): Trends in wood duck production indicate this benchmark is being achieved as of this time.
  3. Increase the number of waterfowl wintering in SC as determined by improved long-term trends in the mid-winter survey: Short-term trends have stabilized although there has not been a demonstrated upturn in the long-term trend.
  4. Maintain the current diversity of ducks migrating to and through and wintering in SC: This benchmark is being achieved although there is concern over decreases in wintering mallards.

Population Management Benchmarks

  1. Increase the number of wood duck nest box units constructed/allocated each year through a reinvigorated/cooperative program: This benchmark has been achieved through The Governor's Wood Duck Project whereby almost 1,000 wood duck nest box units were distributed to landowners in 2005.

Harvest Benchmarks

  1. Increase the number of ducks harvested/hunter/day in SC (FWS & DNR harvest data): Waterfowl harvest per unit effort in SC decreased (-2.5%) from 2002-03 to 2003-04 according to FWS parts collection data.
  2. Increase the number of ducks harvested/hunter/day on DNR WMAs (with individual WMA and collective program goals): Total harvest on WMAs increased 7.4% in 2004-05 from 2003-04, but harvest per unit effort on WMAs decreased 5.3%.
  3. Increase the number of mallards harvested/year in SC (FWS & DNR harvest data): Mallard harvest in SC increased 16.4% from 2002-03 to 2003-04.

Opportunity Benchmarks

  1. Increase the number of waterfowl hunter days in SC (# of waterfowl hunters X average # of days afield/year): Total waterfowl hunting days declined 6.6% from 2002-03 to 2003-04.
  2. Increase the number of waterfowl hunter days on existing DNR Category I WMAs (where practicable): Total waterfowl hunting opportunity on DNR WMAs increased 13.4% from 2003-04 to 2004-05.
  3. Put existing/developing projects on line as Category I or II WMAs as soon as it can be recommended or is practicable (e.g., Wee Tee SF, Bonneau Ferry, Hickory Top): This benchmark is being achieved; during 2004-05 an additional Category II Area was added to the list of 21 Category I Areas available in 2003-04.

Human Dimension Benchmarks

  1. Increase waterfowl hunter satisfaction (baseline data exists in previous survey efforts/future surveys will be conducted): DNR staff plans for future surveys to add to baseline data.
  2. Increase communication between waterfowl enthusiasts & DNR (e.g., through the efforts of the Waterfowl Advisory Committee and by widely distributing a stand alone SC Annual Waterfowl Status Report): This benchmark is being achieved through various products including an updated waterfowl information area on the DNR website.

Habitat Benchmarks

  1. Increase habitat indices on DNR WMAs (must first establish baselines perhaps through peer review): Peer review efforts have been completed on 4 areas and others are planned.
  2. Increase acreage in inviolate sanctuary status in all major wintering areas as necessary (e.g., Pee Dee/Waccamaw/Black, Winyah Bay, Santee River Delta, ACE Basin, Santee Cooper Lakes): This benchmark has not been addressed at this time.
  3. Acquire/develop additional high quality waterfowl habitat: This benchmark will be addressed as funding permits.
  4. Enhance habitat on existing DNR Category I & II WMAs: This benchmark is being achieved with significant habitat improvements completed on several WMAs as well as TYWC.
  5. Decrease coverage of common reed (Phragmites communis) on coastal WMAs: This benchmark is being achieved; significant progress has been made eradicating common reed on TYWC, SCR and Santee-Delta WMAs.

Funding Benchmarks: All funding benchmarks are subject to legislative authority, and DNR staff is working on increased funding opportunities.

  1. Increase funding on DNR WMAs (through all sources including NAWCA Small Grant Projects)
  2. Increase cost of SC Duck Stamp (enabling additional goal oriented waterfowl management)
  3. Increase funding on NWRs (working with Congress & FWS )

Research Benchmarks

  1. Determine additional characteristics of SC wintering Northern pintail and mallard originations, movement and site fidelity by satellite tracking: This benchmark is being achieved.
  2. Further determine migration dynamics of mallards by continued examination of banding data: This benchmark is being achieved.
  3. Increase number of ducks banded in SC particularly wood ducks and mallards: DNR staff is continuing emphasis on waterfowl banding as a priority.
  4. Examine changes in harvest composition of top 5 species in the bag to determine long-term trends identifying if there are shifts of a magnitude to prompt additional investigation: Work on this benchmark has not been undertaken at this time.

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