Season for geese to stay closed; Hunters' objections cause DNR to scrap migratory bird hunt


The Department of Natural Resources, which last week seemed ready to open a limited hunt for migratory Canada geese, yesterday decided to keep the season closed until at least fall 2000.

Sarah Taylor-Rogers, secretary of DNR, said Maryland scrapped plans for a six-day hunt because waterfowl hunters objected.

"We asked hunters what they thought about a limited season, and a strong majority of hunters who responded were opposed to opening a season which would allow fewer than half of Maryland's waterfowl hunters to participate," said Taylor-Rogers.

"In addition, many hunters said they thought waiting to open the season would enable a more rapid recovery of this valuable species."

State waterfowl managers said that about 65 percent of the comments gathered at a public meeting in Easton and through the Internet were against reopening the hunt.

The primary concern was that a lottery drawing would have determined who among the state's 25,000 waterfowl hunters would receive the 12,200permits to hunt. Under guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland's total bag limit would have been 12,200 birds.

"It was clear that the consensus from the hunting community was that if the state was going to have a lottery, then they should just keep the season closed," said Larry Albright, president of the Maryland Sportsman's Association.

Seasons for migratory Canada geese have been closed through the Atlantic Flyway since the breeding population bottomed out at 29,000 pairs in 1995.

In the absence of hunting and with favorable habitat conditions on the breeding grounds in northern Quebec, pairs have increased steadily over the past few years, reaching 77,400 last spring.

Based on the sustained increase in breeding pairs, the USFWS built frameworks that would allow seasons this fall and winter in flyway states as far south as Virginia. The frameworks are expected to limit the flyway kill to 35,000 birds, or 5 percent of the migrant population.

Maryland and Delaware are the only two states that will not participate this fall or winter.

Larry Hindman, DNR waterfowl program manager, said that the proposed season would have had minimal impact on the migratory geese this winter in Maryland.

"The harvest that was slated was safe," said Hindman, who is the chairman of the Atlantic Flyway Council Canada Goose Committee. "But the consensus is that hunters wanted the opportunity for everyone to participate."

But, Hindman said, holding off for another season or even two will not ensure a substantial increase in the migrant population or the allowable harvest.

"We might see some additional birds next year, but only a few thousand," he said. "And maybe 25 percent of those will be new breeders.

"It could be a couple of years until the council allows greater than a 5 percent harvest rate."

"We are not going to return to the good old days of the '60s, '70s and early '80s, when we were shooting lots and lots of geese," Hindman said. "Whenever we reopen, we will have to have tight controls on the harvest in place."

Pub Date: 9/02/99

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