JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After a down season last year, Missouri duck hunters may have plenty of waterfowl to aim at this year.
Poor nesting conditions during the 2002 breeding season prompted wildlife officials to shorten last year's early teal season by a week compared to 2001. Early indicators this year left biologists and hunters wondering whether teal numbers would justify any early teal hunting.
But heavy rain and snow in south-central Canada helped the waterfowl stage "a remarkable comeback," said Dave Graber, a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Blue-winged teal are up 31 percent over last year's population to 5.5 million birds. The green-winged teal estimate of 2.7 million was the second-highest on record, the Conservation Department said.
Missouri's early teal hunting season runs Sept. 6 to 21.
"It has been extremely dry in most parts of Missouri this year, and teal hunters should take that into consideration when hunting," Graber said. "Unless conditions change dramatically, there will not be much habitat out there to hold teal in Missouri for any length of time."
Other species of waterfowl increased even more dramatically than teal during this past year. Breeding numbers of Northern shovelers jumped 56 percent to 3.6 million. The Northern pintail, a species of special concern for several years, posted an encouraging 43 percent increase, the Conservation Department said.
Mallards, the most numerous waterfowl species pursued by hunters, are up 11 percent from last year to 7.9 million birds.