Emperor geese up for possible hunt after decades of conservation
BETHEL, Alaska — Federal wildlife officials are looking to open up a subsistence hunt this year for a goose that’s been off-limits to hunting for the past three decades.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted a proposal to have the emperor goose hunt run from April through August. The proposal comes as a result of collaborative efforts from state, federal and tribal representatives through the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council, KYUK-AM reported.
“It’s a victory for tribes in Alaska, but it’s a victory for co-management in general, because we did it together,” said Patty Schwalenberg, the council’s executive director.
A majority of the emperor goose population breeds on the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta in southwestern Alaska, and the bird can only be found in Alaska and Russia.
A drop in the goose population by more than half to fewer than 45,000 birds prompted officials to prohibit hunting of the animal in 1987. Hunting emperor geese has been prohibited ever since.
Officials are proposing the new hunting rules as goose numbers have now surpassed sustainable levels for a hunt.
Residents played a role in growing emperor goose populations, said Crystal Leonetti, an Alaska Native affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.
“We recognize the great sacrifice that elders have made to not have a taste of that special food for a long time,” she said.
Now that residents could possibly have a chance at hunting the goose, Leonetti warned that the emperor goose population is still vulnerable, as they do not behave like other geese.
“Females don’t nest every year,” Leonetti said. “Another thing about their behavior that’s peculiar is that they tend to stick together as a family unit, and when one is injured or taken by a predator or shot for subsistence harvest, the rest of them will stick around.”
One-thousand permits would be issued for the hunt in Alaska, with one goose allowed per permit.
Public comment on the proposed hunt will be accepted through March 13.