The total number of ducks estimated during the annual January
waterfowl survey in South Carolina increased by 139 percent over the
previous year, according to Tommy Strange, Waterfowl Project leader for the S. C. Department of Natural Resources.
Each year during the first 10 days of January, state, federal and
private organizations across the United States and Mexico count waterfowl in
specified areas in order to establish a population index. "This survey has
been conducted since 1955," Strange said, "and although the database is
known to be inexact, it does provide good trend estimates of waterfowl
numbers, particularly over longer time periods."
The number of ducks estimated in South Carolina this year was 110,234.
Although this survey number was up significantly over January 2000,
it is still far short of the 37-year average of 219,226. The highest count
on record is 525,800. The increased count this year is reflected in the 234
percent increase in diving ducks and 48 percent increase in dabbling or
puddle ducks. Scaup numbers were increased by 150 percent to 11,948. This
scaup population estimate varied during the season, and it is estimated that
there were between 30,000-35,000 scaup in offshore waters during the
Atlantic Flyway sea duck survey that was conducted late in January.
Dabbling duck species as a group were increased by 48 percent in
2001, with significant percentage increases noted in gadwall, wigeon,
green-winged teal, blue-winged teal and northern shovelers. The mallard
count was essentially unchanged. Inland habitat in South Carolina has
changed, and migrational patterns within and outside the state have also
changed. These factors have some effect on the mid-winter survey, but the
magnitude of the effect is currently unknown.
Waterfowl hunters, biologists, and administrators had hoped that the
extended period of cold weather to the north and northwest of South Carolina
would greatly increase the number of webfoot travelers to the Palmetto
State. Hunters in the ACE Basin reported a particularly successful year with other areas within the state reporting moderate success, a welcome increase over recent years.