Impact of Oil and Gas Energy Development on Breeding Waterfowl

Much of the Bakken Formation of Montana and North Dakota overlaps with important breeding waterfowl, shorebird, and waterbird habitat in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region. In 2014, PPJV partners initiated a collaborative effort to investigate the potential impact of oil development and extraction in this area on breeding ducks. This collaboration included the USFWS HAPET Office and the National Wildlife Refuge System, Ducks Unlimited (DU), North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Delta Waterfowl, Central Flyway, PPJV, and Louisiana State University.

The project was designed to collect information on three components of the breeding season: waterfowl pair abundance, nest success, and brood abundance. Sampling effort was distributed across a gradient of energy development intensity. We conducted a pilot brood survey during 2014 and completed the first full field season during the 2015 breeding season. Breeding pair surveys and nest searches were initiated in May, and brood surveys were conducted during July and August.

Highlights of the effort include:

In 2014:

• Seven technicians, 2 DU and 3 USFWS staff visited 4,700 wetlands and observed an estimated maximum of 2,200 broods.

In 2015:

• Seven technicians and 2 DU staff conducted 7,200 wetland visits and observed an estimated 9,400 pairs during the spring. • Six technicians searched 6,500 acres of grass cover and determined the fate of 1,800 duck nests. • 15 technicians and 2 DU staff conducted 8,100 wetland visits and observed an estimated maximum of 4,000 broods during late summer.

Two additional field seasons are planned for 2016 and 2017. Collectively, this extensive data set will help us understand the impact of energy development on waterfowl.

Partner Contacts for this project include:

Chuck Loesch, () USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team, Bismarck, ND

Kaylan Carrlson, Ducks Unlimited Great Plains Regional Office, Bismarck, ND

Mike Szymanski, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck, ND

John Devney, Delta Waterfowl, Bismarck, ND

Kevin Ringelman and Cassandra Skaggs, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA