Survey of Western Dakotas begins

Written by Ray Bentley
Monday, May 04, 2009

Photo of Ray Bentley.Today, my observer Peter Fasbender and I began our portion of the 2009 survey in Pierre, South Dakota. We took off in Pierre and followed our first transect line west toward the Montana border and back again. We certainly can’t make predictions based on one day of flying, but we’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing so far—much better water conditions than we have seen in recent years.

This region has a combination of natural wetlands and stock dams that ranchers create to provide water for cattle. In general, the stock dams are deeper than many of the natural wetlands, so they often hold water even after the wetlands are dry. However, this year, waterfowl don’t have to rely solely on the stock dams, because the natural wetlands are full, too. We sure hope the trend continues!

Missouri River separates stratum 41/42 in NE Montana. Credit: Ray Bentley (USFWS)

Sediment deposition following high flow event during spring melt. Credit: Pete Fasbender (USFWS)

Full wetland basins provide excellent habitat. Credit: Pete Fasbender (USFWS)

Roads inundated - full wetland basins provide excellent habitat. Credit: Pete Fasbender (USFWS)