[Federal Register: August 28, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 167)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 45274-45275]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 21

RIN 1018-AI05

Release of Captive-Reared Mallards

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: This document announces the intent of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (hereinafter Service or we) to resume review of all 
aspects of regulations pertaining to the release and harvest of 
captive-reared mallards. Recently, all four Flyway Councils and the 
International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) urged 
the Service to resume its review of the potential effects of releasing 
free-flighted mallards on State-licensed shooting preserves, also known 
as regulated shooting areas (RSA). The Service has agreed to this 
request and intends to complete its review of the Federal regulations 
(50 CFR 21.13) as published in the June 1993 Notice of Intent (58 FR 

DATES: You must submit comments pertaining to regulations governing the 
release of captive-reared mallards by September 27, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments to the Chief, Division of Migratory Bird 
Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, 
room 634-Arlington Square, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240. All 
comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of 
the public record. You may inspect comments during normal business 
hours in room 634, Arlington Square Building, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, 
Arlington, Virginia.

[[Page 45275]]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jerome R. Serie, Atlantic Flyway 
Representative, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, at 301/497-5851.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On June 1, 1993, we published in the Federal 
Register (58 FR 31247) a notice of intent to review all aspects of 
regulations pertaining to the release and harvest of captive-reared 
mallards and provided the public with background information. These 
regulations, stated in Sec. 21.13 of title 50 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR), allow captive-reared mallards, provided they are 
properly marked prior to 6 weeks of age by removal of the right hind 
toe, banding with a seamless metal band, pinioning, or tattooing, to be 
possessed and disposed of in any number, at any time, by any person, 
without a permit. Further, this regulation stipulates that such birds 
may be killed by shooting only in accordance with all applicable 
hunting regulations governing the take of mallard ducks from the wild, 
with the exception provided; that such birds may be killed by shooting, 
in any number, at any time, within the confines of any premises 
operated as a shooting preserve under State license, permit, or 
    In the past, we have not opposed the shooting of captive-reared 
mallards on shooting preserves to supplement hunting opportunities for 
the public when precautions were taken to control the distribution of 
these birds. However, since 1985, this regulation has become more 
broadly interpreted and some shooting preserves actively release 
captive-reared mallards in large numbers in free-ranging situations on 
their premises. Often these properties are in areas frequented by wild 
ducks. Because both classes of mallards (captive-reared and wild) are 
indistinguishable until in the hand, regulatory conflicts arise from 
allowing free-ranging, captive-reared birds to be taken without bag 
limits during closed seasons for wild ducks. Similarly, regulations 
involving live decoys and baiting (50 CFR 20.21) become relevant, which 
necessitates a discretionary interpretation by enforcement personnel in 
the field.
    Uncontrolled releases of thousands of free-flighted captive-reared 
mallards into areas inhabited by wild ducks pose a potential threat of 
disease transmission between captive-reared and wild birds. Highly 
infectious diseases, such as duck plague and avian cholera, are capable 
of causing large-scale losses in wild waterfowl. The influx of large 
numbers of captive-reared mallards into habitats managed for wild birds 
renders data-gathering activities by Federal, State, and Flyway 
waterfowl management programs less effective. There are no reliable 
methods of distinguishing between these classes in population and 
harvest surveys. These biases not only influence survey estimates but 
compromise Flyway harvest management strategies and the promulgation of 
hunting regulations for wild ducks.
    Although the Service initiated its review and solicited input from 
State wildlife agencies in 1993, this effort was suspended because of 
provisions attached to the 1994 Congressional Appropriations Bill 
requesting the Service to withhold promulgation of any new regulations 
until further studies were completed. Since then, studies conducted by 
Louisiana State University and the National Wildlife Health Center have 
been completed, and results are available for consideration in this 
review (copies are available from the address indicated under the 
caption ADDRESSES). A primary focus of our review will be to assess the 
potential effects of these captive-reared mallard releases and harvest 
on the status and management of wild migratory waterfowl.

Public Comment Invited

    Existing regulations, contained in Sec. 21.13, lack specific 
criteria governing the release and control of captive-reared mallards 
on licensed shooting preserves and are thus subject to broad 
interpretation. As a result, numerous conflicts with established 
regulations governing the take of wild mallards and prohibiting the use 
of live decoys and baiting have occurred. In addition, aspects 
involving ownership and control are unclear when flighted, captive-
reared birds are allowed to range freely over a wide area. Risks of 
disease transmission among wild ducks and confounding of data-gathering 
efforts by wildlife agencies for management of wild ducks are of 
    The Service believes several options are available to alleviate 
potential conflicts and resolve management problems associated with 
captive-reared mallard release programs without adversely affecting the 
opportunities and operations on shooting preserves. Many of these 
options would require some modification of Federal regulations (50 CFR 
parts 20 and 21). The Service intends to explore these options and 
invites public comment on any options that may alleviate this problem. 
Comments may be sent to the address indicated under the caption 


    Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), the 
Secretary of the Interior has responsibility for setting appropriate 
regulations for the hunting of migratory birds, with due regard for 
maintaining such populations in a healthy state and at satisfactory 
levels. The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742 a-j) more 
specifically authorizes collection of such information as is necessary 
and to take steps as may be required to protect wildlife resources.

    Dated: August 8, 2001.
Joseph E. Doddridge,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 01-21655 Filed 8-27-01; 8:45 am]