2012 Habitat Conditions
Habitat conditions during the 2012 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey were characterized by average to below-average moisture, a mild winter, and an early spring across the southern portion of the traditional and eastern survey areas. Northern habitats of the traditional and eastern survey areas generally received average moisture and temperatures. The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) was 5.5 ± 0.2 million. This was 32% below the 2011 estimate of 8.1 ± 0.2 million ponds, and 9% above the long-term average of 5.1 ± 0.03 million ponds.
Conditions across the Canadian prairies declined relative to 2011. Residual moisture from prior years benefited more permanent wetlands of the coteau in Saskatchewan and near the Saskatchewan and Manitoba border, but temporary wetlands retained little moisture owing to a shallow frost seal and below-average precipitation. The 2012 estimate of ponds in Prairie Canada was 3.9 ± 0.1 million. This was 21% below last year's estimate (4.9 ± 0.2 million) and 13% above the 1961-2011 average (3.4 ± 0.03 million). Much of the parkland was classified as good; however, conditions declined westward toward Alberta. Following the completion of the survey, the Canadian prairies received above-average precipitation, which may improve habitat conditions for late-nesting waterfowl, re-nesting attempts and brood rearing.
Significant declines in wetland numbers and conditions occurred in the U.S. Prairies during 2012. The 2012 pond estimate for the north-central U.S. was 1.7 ± 0.1 million, which was 49% below last year's estimate (3.2 ± 0.1 million) and similar to the 1974-2011 average. Nearly all of the north-central U.S. was rated as good to excellent in 2011. However, only the coteau of North and South Dakota was rated as good in 2012, and no areas were rated as excellent this year. Drastic wetland declines in western South Dakota and Montana resulted in mostly poor to fair habitat conditions.