BISMARCK, N.D (KXNET) — This week, the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish’s newsletter focused on both the results of their midwinter waterfowl survey and the return of their wildly popular Earth Day Patch competition. Read further for more information about both of these essential events!

First, the Game and Fish Department began by announcing that they had completed their annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January.

All states in the Central Flyway participate in this survey during the same time frame in order to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once, but Game and Fish Department migratory game bird biologist Andy Dinges stated that they expected the previous year’s count to be lower than usual, citing the chilly weather as the primary reason. Adding to these temperatures, Lake Sakakawea iced over earlier in 2022, meaning that some areas needed to be surveyed by air.

“We’ve had well above average snowfall already, especially in the central part of the state where most of our birds typically winter along the Missouri River System,” Dinges said. “Much of this area had received over 50 inches of snow before the survey, which has made access to waste grains difficult for birds and overall wintering conditions have been poor for waterfowl.”

During the most recent survey, an estimated 24,400 Canada geese were seen on the Missouri River, and another 4,400 on Oliver County’s Nelson Lake. After totaling the numbers, Dinges reported that an additional 5,900 mallards were seen statewide — most of which were recorded on Nelson lake.

In total, nearly 29,000 Canada geese were reported across the state. The 10-year average for the midwinter survey in North Dakota currently rests at 112,200 Canada geese and 16,500 mallards.

In addition to the Waterfowl Survey, this week marks the opening of the Game and Fish Department’s annual Earth Day Patch Contest — where students can compete to design their own unique patches to celebrate environmental awareness.

Students who wish to participate in this competition will work to develop a patch design using five colors that also represents an important aspect of Earth Day (such as respecting the Earth, environmental awareness, water quality, habitat conservation, or wildlife) in the state. Students in grades K-12 are permitted to enter.

The overall competition is split into three categories — K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 grades — and a winner will be chosen from each. Each category winner will receive an outdoor kit, including field guides and a pair of binoculars. The grand prize winner, chosen from the three groups, will have their design featured in North Dakota’s OUTDOORS magazine, on the Game and Fish website, and displayed on this year’s recognition patch.

The deadline to enter a patch design in this competition is March 1. More details regarding the Earth Day Patch Contest can be found by contacting contest coordinator Sherry Niesar at 701-27-3714, or emailing

To learn more about this week’s news from the ND Game and Fish Department, visit their website here.