Historically, most of the Prairie Pothole Region contained limited permanent fresh water. In recent decades, permanent water bodies have been created for water-based recreation, for flood control, to increase cropland through wetland consolidation, and as part of waterfowl habitat development. We studied survival of radio-marked gadwall and mallard ducklings in wetland complexes bordering an extensive permanent water body (the McClusky Canal) in central North Dakota, and compared their survival rates (1) to those obtained on our study area before this permanent water body was created, and (2) to estimates we obtained concurrently on other study areas with little permanent water. We found that duckling survival was lower when there was substantial permanent water on the landscape, apparently because permanent water provided habitat for mink, the major predator of ducklings in our study. Permanent water allows mink populations to survive periods of drought, such as the 1988-92 drought that occurred at the beginning of our study. Environmental planners and waterfowl managers should be aware of potential risks to productivity of waterfowl and other waterbirds from development of permanent freshwater bodies in prairie pothole landscapes.
Additional publication details
Does presence of permanent fresh water affect recruitment in prairie-nesting dabbling ducks?