Commission Discusses Captive Mallard Issue

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

The release of captive mallards into the wild continues to be a hot topic for commissioners from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. At today's monthly Commission meeting, commissioners again discussed the captive mallard issue.

“Captive-reared mallard” is a term that touches off debate among many waterfowl hunters in Arkansas. But when facts are considered, debate usually evaporates and sportsmen realize the dangers inherent in releasing privately raised ducks among wild waterfowl.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. True enough, although in this case, the subtleties of difference are loaded with hazards. From a wildlife management standpoint, the greatest potential hazard caused by the mass release of captive-reared mallards is the transmission of diseases. Captive-reared ducks are typically less resistant to diseases and are susceptible to contagious viruses such as duck plague enteritis and avian cholera.

The recent spread of the avian influenza from domestic birds to waterfowl in Asia also has biologists concerned. The spread of this virulent strain of avian flu, identified as H5N1, could pose a public health hazard and threaten the health of wild duck populations in the U.S.

There are also concerns about the feeding of captive ducks and the possibility of wild ducks being drawn into an area that has captive mallards on the water. If wild ducks are harvested in areas where captive reared mallards are held or fed, hunters could face severe penalties for hunting waterfowl with the use of bait and live decoys. These are just a few of the concerns the AGFC and hunters are facing with the release of captive mallards.

Here's a list of what to look for if you're planning on hunting at a captive reared mallard shooting resort:

* Make sure that the facility has a Commercial Game Bird Shooting Resort Permit issued from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

* The ducks must be kept in an escape-proof structure prior to hunting.

* The resort can only release the number of ducks intended to be harvested on that day.

* After the hunt, all ducks either must be harvested or recaptured and returned to their enclosure.

* If the shooting resort operator does not follow these regulations, penalties for hunting over live decoys or bait could be levied against the hunters and the resort operator.

* Ducks taken from the premises of a commercial game bird shooting resort must be accompanied by the written information indicating name, address, number and species of birds, date taken by the possessor along with the name and address of the shooting resort.

* If you wish to operate a captive mallard shooting resort, there is more to it than just releasing ducks. You should contact the AGFC to get a permit application and implement a list of measures to legally operate a game bird shooting resort facility.

* If you already have a captive mallard shooting resort permit, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

* Ducks purchased in Arkansas must come from a dealer with a Wildlife Commercial Breeder/Dealer Permit from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

* If ducks are purchased outside the state, the resort must have a Wildlife Importation Permit, the birds must be tested for duck virus enteritis and they must be purchased from a dealer that participates in the National Poultry Improvement Program.

* Purchased ducks must have a seamless metal band around the duck's leg.

In other business, the Commission:

*Passed new commercial turtle regulations. According to AGFC chief of fisheries Mike Armstrong, the new regulations had three main purposes. "We want to identify the players involved with commercial turtle harvest, we want to permit commercial turtlers so that we'll have harvest reports that provide information necessary for management of turtles taken from the wild, and give special protective status for chicken turtles which is a species of concern due to it’s documented decline in the wild," he said.

*The Commission also discussed the 2006 spring turkey hunting season date proposals. The following four options were offered:

•Same season structure as 2005, with an April 1-2 statewide youth hunt (except Mar. 25-26 in Zone 17), April 8-May 5 (28 days, 4 weekends) in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 1-28 in Zone 17; April 8-21 in Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A.

•April 1-2 statewide youth hunt (except Mar. 25-26 in Zone 17), April 8-30 (23 days, 4 weekends) in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 1-23 in Zone 17; April 8-21 in Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A.

•April 8-9 statewide youth hunt (except April 1-2 in Zone 17), April 10-May 7 (28 days, 4 weekends) in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 3-30 in Zone 17; April 10-23 in Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A.

•April 8-9 statewide youth hunt (except April 1-2 in Zone 17), April 15-May 7 (23 days, 4 weekends) in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 8-30 in Zone 17; April 15-28 in Zones 1A, 4, 4A, 5A and 9A.

A decision on the 2006 spring turkey season will be made at the October meeting.

*Discussed proposals to create a permit for commercial activities, including various forms of guiding, on AGFC wildlife management areas. If approved, the new regulations would establish commercial permits similar to those used on federal refuges. Waterfowl hunting guides would still be banned on all AGFC wildlife management areas.