DNR may expand LqP goose hunting season

Proposal would increase limits

By Tim Spielman

Associate Editor

Bemidji, Minn. When the Mississippi Flyway Council convenes in
St. Joseph, Mo., this month, U.S. Fish and Wildlife waterfowl
officials will hear a couple requests from the Minnesota DNR.

One of them is an extension to the goose season at Lac qui Parle
and the west-central goose zone, according to Steve Maxson, the
DNR’s goose specialist stationed in Bemidji.

“We’ll ask them to increase the season from 30 to 40 days,”
Maxson said.

As a “trade-off,” Maxson said DNR officials also will propose a
reduction in the harvest index from 16,000 birds to 12,000
birds.

“We’re not sure how it will be received,” Maxson said.

The request follows the mid-January meeting of the DNR’s
waterfowl committee, an inter-agency group that reviews concerns
from the past season. The Lac qui Parle goose hunt was at the
forefront.

Warm October weather was the greatest contributor to the lowest
harvest ever: the 30-day hunt produced just over 2,600 birds.

The harvest index is set to protect the Eastern Prairie
Population of Canada geese. While other populations have thrived,
the EPPs have struggled following poor breeding years. Lac qui
Parle is a major stopover for the birds during the fall.

Local guides and businesses, along with state legislators,
lobbied for an extension to last fall’s season. However, since the
season is set by federal officials, and agreed upon by the state
DNR, the extension was not granted.

Waterfowl officials at Lac qui Parle have said the major influx
of geese has been later in the season the past few years and even
after the season closes. Last year, the west-central zone hunt,
which includes the LqP area, ran from Oct. 7 through Nov. 5.

Another request the DNR will make at the flyway meeting is an
increase in the bag limit of Canada geese during the experimental
September hunt, now in its final year. Maxson said the proposal
will be to increase the limit from five to 10 birds daily in areas
of the state where the five-goose limit was in place last year.
That includes the west and five-goose zones.

Maxson said the flyway’s regulations committee will likely
discuss the proposals before deciding whether to grant the state
its request.

“They’ll meet in June, so we hope to know by then,” he said.

Currently, the USFWS is finalizing an environmental impact
statement regarding control measures for the burgeoning Canada
geese. Liberal hunting seasons including hunts in September and
December, in addition to the regular season hunt in October and
part of November contributed to a record harvest in 1999.

But residents in some parts of the state are concerned about
depredation caused by large resident Canada goose numbers in the
spring and summer. Last year, about 100 permits were issued mostly
to farmers to harvest depredating geese.

Will that mean extending Canada goose hunts in the state,
possibly to spring or summer?

“At this point, there’s a lot of speculation,” said Steve Wilds,
regional chief of migratory birds for the USFWS in St. Paul. “We’re
writing the EIS now, which deals with additional ways to deal with
the problem Canada geese. One of those ways is a conservation order
(the same thing that allows spring light goose hunting snows,
blues, and Ross’ in several Midwestern states).

“But there are problems with a Canada goose hunt in the spring
that you don’t have with snows,” he said. “With Canada geese,
several populations look alike in the air, but there are some
(populations) we don’t want to reduce at all. EPPs primarily are a
concern.”

Wilds expects the EIS to be completed this spring. Any new rules
would be implemented in 2002.

Alternatives include:

No action. Special and regular hunting seasons would continue to
be used, and depredation permits and special Canada goose permits
would be issued.

Non-lethal control and management (non-permitted activities).
The USFWS would promote tools such as habitat manipulation and
management and goose harassment techniques.

Non-lethal control and management. This alternative is similar
to the above alternative, except trapping and relocation would be
allowed by permit and special seasons targeting Canada geese could
continue.

Increased hunting. Could allow liberal hunting techniques, such
as electronic calls, extended hours, and unplugged shotguns.

Integrated depredation order management. Strategies include any
of the following; airport depredation order (when geese threaten
airport safety), nest and egg depredation order (authorize states
to take nests and eggs), agriculture depredation order (allow
harassment, nest and egg destruction, trapping and culling programs
where geese commit depredation to crops), public health depredation
order (allow population control strategies when it’s certified
geese are causing health risks).

Conservation order. This alternative would allow state wildlife
agencies to implement population control measures including
hunting.

“This could mean August hunts,” Maxson said. “We’re not confined
to spring.”

General depredation order. This would allow any authorized
person to conduct management activities on resident Canada geese
posing a threat to health and human safety or causing damage to
personal and public property. It could include harassment, egg and
nest destruction, gosling and adult trapping or culling, or other
strategies.

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