- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The population of breeding ducks is soaring in North Dakota, but the loss of habitat could arrest that rise.

The state Game and Fish Department’s annual spring breeding duck survey released Monday indicated a population of about 4.9 million birds, up 23 percent from last year and 110 percent above the long-term average.

Duck numbers during the last two decades have been the highest since survey records began in 1948, Game and Fish Department migratory bird biologist Mike Szymanski said. He credited a lot of land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to idle land to prevent erosion and create wildlife habitat, along with abundant water in the state.

“It’s safe to say we are still riding abundant populations stemming from near-perfect conditions,” he said.

However, Szymanski added that the loss of CRP acres in recent years, as farmers have plowed up more land to grow lucrative crops, could affect the duck production.

“It’s hard to say how they will fare in the future now that a large portion of their nesting cover has disappeared,” he said.

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