This fall, Ducks Unlimited Canada is encouraging people in southwestern Manitoba (and all across the country) to take part in the first annual Duck and Run challenge in support of nature conservation.
The new event is both community-based, made of up of in-person events in different communities, and virtual, for people who want to participate but aren’t near a place where an event is happening.
It’s all for the good of protecting wetlands, which are home to countless species of plants, birds and animals, says Michael Nadler, chief executive officer of Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC).
“They also help to mitigate the impacts of severe weather and provide outdoor recreation and clean water to people and communities,” Nadler said.
The Duck and Run event is an all-ages fun run that includes a five-kilometre or one-kilometre fun run or walk, or a 10,000-step challenge. Funds raised from the event will support DUC’s nature conservation efforts and help to keep Canada’s wetlands healthy.
The event also coincides with DUC’s 85th anniversary and to celebrate the milestone, the organization has set a target to conserve and restore 15 million acres of wetlands this year. To do that, it is focused on working with its supporters and partners, including local communities, watershed districts and agricultural producers.
Sponsoring the Duck and Run is Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Canada. Brent Bowen, the regional director for the companies, said the event is a chance for people from all walks of life to support DUC’s conservation efforts – something he said his employees and customers care deeply about.
“The Duck and Run is a great opportunity for our community to come together in support of conservation,” he said.
Participants will also get a chance to win giveaways, prizes and more. To find or host a run, and for run dates, visit ducks.ca/run.
Coming shortly after the announcement of the event, DUC reported that an estimated 32.3 million ducks were observed at Oak Hammock Marsh, located 230 kilometres northeast of Brandon, in 2023.
According to the Watefowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey released on Aug. 18, total populations are seven per cent lower than last year’s estimate, and nine per cent lower than the long-term average. DUC says that the results are an important reminder that the need for habitat conservation never stops.
“As an organization that’s been studying the drivers of waterfowl population dynamics for 85 years,” said Matt Dyson, a waterfowl research scientist with DUC. “Ducks Unlimited Canada remains vigilant in our efforts to work with our many partners on the landscape and take conservation action”
The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey is run jointly by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service, with support provided by other groups like DUC. Using airplanes, helicopters and keen-eyed ground crews, the organizations examine breeding habitat and populations over more than 3.6 million square kilometres of Canada and the northern United States.
Despite this year’s decrease, Dyson says populations of most waterfowl species remain healthy and near long-term averages. Notable in this year’s report are decreases in mallard and American wigeons, which may be attributed to ongoing drought conditions on the Canadian Prairies. However, ongoing pressures from grassland habitat loss, wetland drainage, coastal wetland loss and climate change continue to affect North America’s ducks. The habitats that ducks need also serve as natural carbon sinks and safe havens for many species at risk. Beyond the benefits they provide to birds, DUC says conserving and protecting these landscapes create significant, positive impacts on the overall health of the environment.