Ft. Snelling, Minn. Despite the best efforts of hunters, snow
geese numbers showed an increase in the past year after three years
of decline. The most recent winter index estimated over 2.7 million
snow geese, which remains below the all-time index of 3.2 million
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Jim Kelley says the
increase was likely due to good production of young birds. It does
not necessarily mean the population is climbing upward again.
Hunting regulations for snow geese were liberalized with a
“conservation action” in 1998 to allow spring hunts and the use of
electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Biologists are concerned
that snow goose numbers had burgeoned to a point where they were
destroying habitat on their tundra nesting grounds.
Kelley says hunters now kill about 1 million snow geese per
year. Though short of a 1.4 million annual goal, he believes it
will gradually reduce the population.
The liberalized hunting was contested by animal advocates, which
sued the Service. The agency is completing a subsequent
Environmental Impact Statement on managing the birds.
The final document is expected in late 2002, with the preferred
alternative being continuation of liberalized hunting. Publication
of the preferred alternative as a final rule will be the next step
in the process. At that point, Kelley says, it is likely the animal
advocates will sue again. He believes the agency will prevail in
“We think the science is behind us,” Kelley says.