Canada goose debate obscures other seasons

OUTDOORS

August 17, 1993|By PETER BAKER

Although Maryland's proposed Canada goose hunting seasons drew the most attention last week, the Department of Natural Resources also released its proposals for its other waterfowl seasons, including snow geese and ducks.

According to the Fall Flight Forecast of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which must approve Maryland's proposed season, the overall breeding population of ducks is down 11 percent from last year. But the fall flight to the Atlantic Flyway is expected to be similar to last year's.

Duck species that nest in the prairie pothole regions continue to be depressed because of extended drought, high numbers of predators and intensive farming operations.

Maryland's first split of the proposed duck seasons, Oct. 15-16, will be closed again for black ducks to maintain at least a 25 percent reduction in the kill, as required by the USFWS.

The October split is placed outside the peak of the blue-winged teal migration to reduce the kill of this species, but does coincide with the peak of the wood duck migration.

The second split would be Nov. 25-26 and the third split would run Dec. 14 to Jan. 8. Daily bag limit would be three, including a reduction in the take of redheads from two to one per day.

While the Canada goose has dropped off in the Atlantic flyway, the snow goose has thrived since 1984. This year Maryland proposes a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of four. The splits would run from Oct. 23 to Nov. 26 and from Dec. 1 to Feb. 10.

The snow goose population is expected to be especially large this year because the breeding grounds on Bylot Island near the Arctic Circle has the earliest nesting and largest clutches on record.

The fifth bird allowed daily under federal guidelines has been omitted in Maryland because it makes up a small proportion of the kill.

Atlantic Brant also have benefited from an early thaw on the breeding grounds, but the midwinter count was 100,600, the lowest since 1981.

While brant are not popular birds in most of Maryland, they are important to coastal hunters, who have killed an average of 2,100 per season in the past three years.

Maryland has proposed a 30-day season in two splits, Nov. 24-Nov. 26 and Dec. 13-Jan. 8. The daily bag limit would be two.

Maryland proposes to open its sea ducks season Oct. 8 to coincide more closely with their migration pattern. The season would close Jan. 20.

A bag limit of five per day has been proposed, and that limit may include no more than four scoters.

Midwinter counts in the Atlantic flyway have shown a decrease and the Atlantic Flyway Council and the USFWS hope the limits on scoter will cause a 20 percent reduction in seasonal kill.

Sea duck hunting has increased since the initiation of restricted Canada goose and regular duck seasons. Sea ducks comprise about 13.7 percent of the seasonal duck harvest.

The proposed five sea duck limit is less than the seven allowed under federal guidelines, and the restricted kill is meant in part to reduce wanton waste on the part of hunters.

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