Posted on Sun, Jul. 11, 2004
Goose season will be cut back Poor breeding affects Lac qui Parle zone
BY CHRIS NISKANEN
A popular goose-hunting season in western Minnesota will be scaled back because of a poor breeding season by Canada geese in the Canadian Arctic.
Minnesota waterfowl biologists are discussing reducing the season or refiguring hunting zones for the goose hunt at the Lac qui Parle Goose Zone after reports that the Eastern Prairie Population of Canada geese had the worst breeding season since 1976, when record-keeping began.
A late spring on Hudson Bay is to blame. Biologists monitoring the geese at Cape Churchill on the bay describe the goose breeding season as a "complete bust.'' They worry that the flock, which can number between 200,000 and 300,000, could be nearly devoid of young geese this fall.
That's bad news for goose hunters in western Minnesota. The EPP geese migrate through western Minnesota and use Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area and surrounding areas as a major resting spot before continuing to their winter grounds in Missouri.
Steve Cordts, a Department of Natural Resources waterfowl specialist, said the state will have to cut its harvest of EPP geese by 25 percent.
The Lac qui Parle Goose Zone had a 40-day season year, but that likely will be cut back. It's also possible the Lac qui Parle zone and perhaps surrounding hunting zones might be redrawn to reduce the goose kill.
"We can't reduce the bag limit because it's only one,'' said Cordts. "We'll have some sort of restricted season and maybe do something with zones."
This week, DNR waterfowl officials will meet to consider options at Lac qui Parle.
They're also preparing for a weeklong series of meetings starting July 20 when Duluth hosts the annual Mississippi Flyway Council meetings. Between 60 and 70 waterfowl biologists and conservationists from 14 states, three Canadian provinces and several conservation groups will attend the meeting.
The council, along with its advisory committees, helps determine waterfowl policies for the Mississippi Flyway, a corridor of waterfowl migration that begins in Canada and roughly follows the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. The flyway includes Minnesota and Louisiana and 12 states in between.
The council makes recommendations for season lengths, bag limits and other policies at the meeting and forwards those proposals to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which makes final decisions on regulations in August.
The status of the EPP geese will be discussed at the Mississippi Flyway meeting, along with means of reducing their harvest.
The top issues, however, concern this year's duck regulations. There is increasing concern about North America's breeding duck population and the effects of drought conditions in prairie Canada. Though many parts of North America received late spring rains, as Minnesota did, biologists are wondering aloud if the rain came too late to affect populations.
Some species, such as scaup and pintails, are experiencing long-term declines. Some waterfowl hunters and policymakers have criticized the federal Adaptive Harvest Management program, a formula that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service utilizes to set regulations. Some critics say the formula doesn't respond to fluctuating population levels and doesn't adequately protect waterfowl when they need it.
The controversial spinning-wing decoys remain a hot issue for waterfowl biologists, who are hearing more calls for greater restrictions on the decoys.
Also, a group of Minnesota duck hunters and retired biologists calling themselves the Concerned Duck Hunters Panel hope to make a presentation to the group. The group, led by Duluth's Dave Zentner, is concerned about the overharvest of ducks by hunters.
Cordts said biologists are still waiting for results of the spring waterfowl surveys in Canada and the upper Midwest. "I hate to come out with predictions because I could be wrong,'' he said, regarding bag limits and season lengths. "I put a lot of weight on those May surveys. If breeding populations are high, I think we could justify a liberal duck season."