Pintail and wigeon ducks on the move at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Arkansas. Photo credit: Jim Daniel.
A 2005 newspaper article gave Dr. James Bednarz the idea to look for a possible link between climate change and duck migration.
In the article, someone suggested climate change was already reducing duck hunting opportunities in Arkansas, a state known for its premier waterfowl hunting.
“I thought it was pretty farfetched,” Bednarz recalled recently.
But the hypothesis presented an interesting research project. After diving into 50 years worth of duck data, Bednarz, a professor of Wildlife Ecology at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, says he’s now convinced climate change -- including warmer temperatures, more ice-free days and changes in precipitation -- is causing fewer ducks to migrate south for the winter.
“The analysis definitely demonstrates that change is happening right now,” Bednarz said. “If [climate change] continues, waterfowl hunting in places where we’ve traditionally done it will seriously diminish. I think it will be a big cost to our heritage and our wildlife.”