DNR ponders options under fed’s plan to reduce geese

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Bemidji, Minn. – The DNR has begun discussions about a federal
plan that allows states more latitude in controlling resident
Canada geese.

The plan was released last November, but the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service hasn’t sent out a record of decision, which it
must do before states can implement any of the provisions.

Under the plan, states could expand the hunting methods by which
resident geese could be taken (expanded shooting hours, electronic
calls, and unplugged shotguns); allow goose control within three
miles of an airport; and allow farmers to control geese depredating
their fields, among others.

‘We haven’t made any hard decision yet on which way we are going
to go with this thing,’ said Steve Maxson, DNR goose specialist.
‘The first thing that has to happen is the actual final version has
to be published.’

The states’ control options under the plan are limited to
resident Canada geese. There are about 3.2 million resident geese
nationwide, and the USFWS, through the plan, wants to reduce that
population to 2 million within about 10 years.

There have been an average of 327,000 resident geese in
Minnesota the past five years.

‘We still have problems with agricultural depredation and there
are some nuisance problems in the metro area, but we have been
pretty successful in reducing the metro populations,’ said Bryan
Lueth, DNR urban wildlife manager in Forest Lake.

Last week, the DNR Waterfowl Committee discussed what the state
potentially would do under the plan. Control measures would depend
on the resident goose problem in various areas around the state,
Maxson said.

‘At this early date, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest
in using some of these expanded hunting methods, like unplugged
shotguns and that sort of thing,’ Maxson said.

The committee believes some of those methods de-value geese as a
game bird, he said.

‘It puts it into that vermin category, and that’s something we
want to avoid,’ Maxson said.

Other options – like allowing goose control at airports, and by
public health agencies if they deem resident geese a threat to
public health – drew more support, Maxson said.

Even after the USFWS prints a record of decision, the plan’s
implementation could be delayed, as lawsuits are expected.

‘We’re waiting to see if anything comes to pass here in the near
future,’ Lueth said. ‘It doesn’t make a lot of sense putting a lot
of effort into something that might not even come to pass.’

Snow geese in Nebraska

While the bulk of the snow geese are still south, Nebraska
already is holding about 100,000 of them, according to Mark
Vrtiska, waterfowl program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks
Commission.

The hunt in Nebraska and South Dakota began Feb. 1.

Some birds have been in Nebraska for nearly a month, flying
north from Oklahoma and Kansas when the warm weather began in early
January.

Last year, snow geese showed up in Nebraska on Feb. 4, which had
been the earliest date they moved in, Vrtiska said.

‘That breaks that record,’ he said. The early migration is the
result of January weather that averaged 40 or 50 degrees, and
topped 60 degrees on several occasions.

‘This is unprecedented and I hope it doesn’t continue,’ Vrtiska
said. ‘But if this weather pattern continues, they will be here en
masse by next week.’

Snow geese have been reported north of Lincoln, but there are
probably only about 2,000 to 3,000 snow geese in South Dakota, said
Spencer Vaa, a waterfowl biologist with the South Dakota Game, Fish
and Parks Department.

Those he’s heard about were near Yankton in the extreme southern
part of the state. Snow geese typically arrive in South Dakota in
late February or early March, Vaa said.

‘It’s just a trickle coming in right now,’ he said. ‘We’re
looking forward to a season here pretty soon.’

Categories: Hunting News

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