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Home arrow Opinion arrow Wetlands - not so wet for duck opener

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Wetlands - not so wet for duck opener

Dave Larson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife examines the dry conditions at Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Larson is the manager of the wildlife area. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).
Dave Larson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife examines the dry conditions at Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Larson is the manager of the wildlife area. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).

- Dick Mason

The Observer

Dry is the operative word at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area on the eve of the opening of duck season.

How arid is the popular waterfowl hunting site?

Some creek bridges appear so unnecessary they almost look decorative.

Just 20 percent of Ladd Marsh's wetlands have water. Ladd Marsh has 26 blinds for hunters and just four have water in front of them, said Manager Dave Larson.

This lack of water is bad news for duck hunters.

And very good news.

The bad news is obvious: few ducks are at Ladd Marsh now because of the dry conditions. Ladd Marsh and the adjacent City of La Grande water treatment lagoons have about 1,000 ducks. This is down significantly from the 4,000 ducks this area normally has at this time of year, said, Larson, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Sportsmen are thus advised to go to places like the Snake River to hunt ducks early in the season. The Columbia River area opens for duck hunting a week later and it too is recommended to area sportsmen instead of Ladd Marsh.

Now the good news for hunters: Ladd Marsh will become far more attractive to ducks later in the season. Ponds and creeks should soon begin filling with water as expected fall rains come. Once this happens, Ladd Marsh will be much more attractive than normal to ducks.

Here's why.

Ladd Marsh's ponds and creeks have many seeds that germinate only when they are exposed to air. Countless such seeds, normally dormant because they are submerged, have now germinated

The plants will continue growing even as water covers them. Ducks will find a smorgasbord of American bulrush, common threesquare, duck potato and other plants to eat later this fall at the marsh.

The Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area will be open to hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and holidays throughout the duck season.

Ladd Marsh and all the rest of Union County are part of the Zone 2 duck hunting area. Duck season in Zone 2 runs from Saturday to Dec. 4 and from Dec. 7 to Jan. 20, 2008.

Union County is one of 12 counties in Zone 2. The other counties are Wallowa, Baker, Grant, Malheur, Harney, Wheeler, Crook, Lake, Klamath, Deschutes and Jefferson.

The rest of the state is in Zone 1. Its season runs Oct. 13-28 and Oct. 31 to Jan. 27, 2008. Zone 1 includes Eastern Oregon's Umatilla, Morrow, Gilliam, Sherman, Wasco and Hood River counties.

Duck hunting throughout Oregon should be good this fall and early winter because waterfowl populations are up, according to ODFW and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counts.

"Based on production it looks like the season will be very good,'' Larson said.

Census information for the Northeast Oregon region projects that it will have 26,969 ducks, up 13 percent from a year ago.

Mallards are the most populous duck in Northeast Oregon at 14,094, up 24 percent from a year ago. Gadwall's are the second most common at 4,577, up 2 percent from last year.

The statewide census estimate for ducks is 101,042, up 15 percent from a year ago.

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