Rhode Island BHA Duck Banding With RI Fish & Wildlife

This article first appeared in Back Country Hunters & Anglers
February 16th 2024
by New England BHA Chapter

There's no way around it – as hunting seasons wind down in the Northeast we tend to hang on to the fleeting opportunities that remain to pursue wildlife on our public lands & waters, before we resign ourselves to cleaning and organizing gear and making plans for next year. When New England BHA's Board members, Chapter partners, volunteers, and Armed Forces Initiative Liaisons met up in a Rhode Island salt marsh hours before sunrise in mid-February our purpose wasn't to patch the holes we'd put in our decoys during New England AFI's Duck Camp earlier in the season, or to plan for the future. The team came together to assist wildlife biologists from the RI Department of Environmental Management's Fish & Wildlife Division with their annual effort to trap and band ducks.

Each year, fish and wildlife agencies across North America band migratory waterfowl as a conservation tool that informs wildlife biologists who track trends in population, migratory routes, survival and reproduction. Hunters play an important role in gathering data by reporting banded waterfowl taken during the hunting season to the United States Geological Survey's Bird Banding Laboratory. Based on the information gathered each year, North America's Flyway Councils advise State agencies on how they should set seasons and bag limits to ensure populations are conserved based on the best available science. In addition to fitting dozens of ducks with standard leg bands, the team helped outfit female mallards with GPS devices that will contribute data to the Atlantic Flyway Waterfowl Tracking Study, which seeks to provide biologists with detailed data on where ducks forage, travel, and nest.

hunting party
Of the day's efforts, DEM F&W's Principal Waterfowl Biologist Jenny Kilburn said “When it comes to winter waterfowl banding in Rhode Island, it truly takes a team. The success of these projects is dependent on the numerous volunteers that show up before the sun to help ensure that birds are banded, data is collected, and gear is organized. Without help from conservation organizations like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers we would not be able to efficiently and effectively execute these projects every year to help inform management decisions. Watching folks work together on the marsh, learning about waterfowl and the work we do, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job!”

Jarad Luchka, owner of New England BHA Chapter Partner Big Game Waterfowl added “If you think hunting with your buddies is fun, you should try rocket-netting a flock of ducks for banding. One of the reasons that Big Game Waterfowl supports Backcountry Hunters & Anglers as a Chapter Partner is because the organization works to ensure that the birds we hunt are managed sustainably. If it wasn't for the information gathered from projects like this, the future of such a cool resource would be in jeopardy.”

banded mallards
Rafael Vargas, who was recently appointed Secretary of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers' Armed Forces Initiative's National Board said “AFI’s purpose is to give active-duty service members and veterans a new mission in conservation, and I saw that in action today! It was a phenomenal experience seeing AFI members, some of whom I just hunted with a few months ago, out on the marsh helping ensure ducks are around for generations to come.”

“Experiences like this one – where we're able to bring Chapter Leaders, members, partners, and AFI Liaisons from around the region together to contribute to the work that our State wildlife managers are doing ensure hunters continue to enjoy hunting opportunities on our public lands & waters are what Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is all about” said New England Chapter Board Chair Michael Woods. “The New England Chapter appreciates the opportunity to work with RI DEM's Fish and Wildlife Division, and we look forward to continuing to advance BHA's mission of protecting and conserving our public lands, waters & wildlife.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
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New England Safari Club International