Western Dakotas and Eastern Montana Complete

Written by Rob Spangler
Monday, June 06, 2016

Rob SpanglerWe had a few more weather delays than in previous years, but we finally finished our survey at the end of May. Overall, conditions were improved in the Dakotas compared with last year. Late spring moisture helped to partially fill permanent and seasonal wetlands. Eastern Montana was similar to last year except conditions near Baker had improved somewhat and the areas adjacent to the Rockies saw a decline. In fact, many wetlands here are dry caused by low precipitation over the past few years. Overcrowding is evident in these wetlands and we anticipate lower production here. The nesting cover continues to be an issue across the state of Montana, where much of the territory is grazed heavily by cattle. Many wetlands are completely void of vegetation along their edges due to trampling and grazing, exacerbating habitat degradation where precipitation is below average. More precipitation allows cattle to spread out when watering, which helps prevent damage to fragile wetland edges. This was an interesting year with the most snow I had ever encountered on a breeding population survey. You know what they say, there is rarely ever an “average” year! Looking forward to next year and talk to you all then!

A recent storm leaves behind wet conditions in central Montana. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS.

A recent storm leaves behind wet conditions in central Montana. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS.

Plows are still hard at work in Lewistown following a recent snow storm. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS.

Plows are still hard at work in Lewistown following a recent snow storm. Photo Credit: Rob Spangler, USFWS.