The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently finalized rules allowing the use of expanded hunting methods and implementation of a conservation order to increase light goose harvest.
“The overabundance of light geese is harming their fragile arctic breeding habitat,” said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The damage to the habitat is, in turn, harming the health of the light geese and other bird species that depend on the tundra habitat. Returning the light goose population to sustainable levels is necessary to protect this delicate habitat, and every species dependent on it.”
During the last few decades, populations of greater and lesser snow geese and Ross's geese, collectively called “light geese,” have grown to historic highs. The current breeding population of mid-continent light geese likely exceeds 5 million birds, an increase of more than 300 percent since the mid-1970s. Historic numbers of central arctic light geese have denuded portions of their fragile tundra breeding habitat to the point many areas may take decades to recover.
Since implementation of the conservation order in 1999, the harvest of mid-continent light geese has more than doubled, and the population growth rate as measured by the midwinter index has been reduced. The management goal is to reduce the number of mid-continent light geese by 50 percent, and to reduce the greater snow geese population to 500,000 birds.
The final rule authorizes the use of new hunting methods, such as electronic calls and unplugged shotguns, to harvest light geese during normal hunting season frameworks. These regulations are allowed during a light-goose-only hunting season when all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are closed.