Jacobs noted that the online and toll-free reporting systems have produced big dividends. Under the old reporting system, utilized until the late 1990s, about one-third of recovered banded birds were reported by hunters. Now, with the option of using online or toll-free methods, band reporting rates are estimated to have stabilized around 70 percent. This allows more information to be obtained from the program and can reduce costs associated with banding ducks, geese and doves.“For this reason, hunters are cautioned to not consume any mergansers. Other waterfowl should be skinned and the fat removed before cooking. Stuffing should be discarded after cooking and should not be consumed.“

To minimize potential health impacts, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials recommend hunters do not eat merganser ducks, especially those harvested in the Lake Erie and Northwestern Pennsylvania hunting zones.“Studies conducted two decades ago on Pennsylvania and New York mergansers, especially common and red-breasted mergansers in the Lake Erie region, concluded they may have varying levels of contaminants, including PCBs,“ said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. „Mergansers consume fish and other aquatic organisms that may cause a concentration of contaminants in body tissue. As such, health officials have issued similar consumption advisories for certain species of fish found in these same waters.

The Game Commission is in its final year of a research project to obtain additional information on contaminant levels in Lake Erie waterfowl, and the potential threats of those contaminants on wildlife and human health. Individuals willing to allow Game Commission personnel to collect tissue samples from waterfowl harvested at Lake Erie or Presque Isle during the 2012-seasons are encouraged to contact the Bureau of Wildlife Management at for details.