Dry season tough on waterfall | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Dry season tough on waterfall

Waterfowl in the Tahoe Basin and across the country are ruffling their feathers over drought conditions.

Shane Romsos, wildlife and fisheries program manager for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said though no scientific analysis has been completed, normally wet areas like Barton Meadows and Upper Truckee Marsh have dried up, encouraging more people to recreate and discouraging waterfowl from setting up homes.

Maureen Easton, a U.S. Forest Service biologist, said the 26 species of ducks and geese in the basin nest at different times during the year.

Because of this, TRPA and the Forest Service monitor 23 different sites in the basin three times annually. Biologists measure the abundance, variety and habitat disturbance of fowl, among other factors.

Romsos said the final analysis of the data won’t be completed until September. However, he said there hasn’t been any significant drop in numbers so far.

Ducks aren’t faring so well nationally though. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s annual report on breeding duck numbers and May habitat conditions revealed a population decrease in nine of the 10 most common duck species.

The study estimates that despite an 18 percent increase in pond numbers on breeding grounds, the number of breeding ducks declined by 14 percent, falling from 42 million birds in 2000 to 36.1 million in 2001.

“This is an unusual result,” said Bruce Batt, chief biologist for Ducks Unlimited, the world’s largest wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. “Even though the pond counts are up overall, it’s so much drier than usual on some of the birds’ most important breeding grounds, that habitat gains in the eastern prairies are overwhelmed by losses further west.

“This year’s survey is not devastating news, but it is certainly worth keeping an eye on,” Batt said.

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