Mallard Modeling Project

During the early 1980's, scientists from varied backgrounds joined forces at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) to devise a computer model of the "production" part of the life cycle of mallards in the Prairie Potholes of North Dakota (ND), South Dakota (SD) and Montana. One component of the model included the amount of various habitats available for mallards and a measure of how successful mallard nests would be in each. In addition, information was included about the use of such intensive management practices as installing nest baskets. The Central Flyway Council provided $10,000 to NPWRC in 1983 to conduct runs of the model that would show the value of implementing certain management techniques. The objective was to learn how to most efficiently spend limited dollars on future management techniques.

The CFC set out the level or intensity of certain management practices to be evaluated (e.g., how many nest baskets would be installed in each state or how many acres of no-till winter wheat might be planted). A portion of the abstract of the resultant publication reads: "The simulations predicted that implementation of the management plan would increase recruits by 24 percent. Nest baskets were the most effective treatment … No-till winter wheat was the second most effective ..." Other management practices included were delayed cutting of alfalfa, nesting island construction and use of predator-resistant fencing. (See references.)

The modeling effort set the stage for future developments and use of the model. Between 1984 and 1995, the CF spent an additional $166,000, gathering data, making improved model runs about using inverted culverts for mallard nest structures, and implementing intensive management strategies on relatively small areas. The result is a model that is a tool usable by waterfowl managers across the Prairie Pothole region.