A longer snow goose season?

DNR ponders maximum for annoying visitor

Notebook

September 05, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Unlike the migratory Canada goose, the snow goose has flourished in the Atlantic Flyway, growing to the point that farmers, landowners and waterfowl managers want great numbers of them eliminated.

Snow geese are voracious feeders and destroy habitat by consuming even the roots of plants in coastal marshes and grain fields. The long-term effects of heavy grazing are devastating for other species of waterfowl and wildlife that share habitat with snow geese.

Aerial surveys of snow geese on the St. Lawrence River this spring produced an estimate of 800,400 birds staging for their migration north to Bylot Island, the main breeding area in the Canadian Arctic.

This fall, waterfowl program manager Larry Hindman said, a large flight of snow geese is expected to return to Maryland, even though few of the birds nested successfully and Arctic foxes ravaged more than 50 percent of the nests.

"So there will be very few young birds in the fall flight," he said, "and they are going to be very hard to hunt again this year."

The daily patterns snow geese follow from rest areas to feed are unpredictable, and the birds are hard to hunt, even when there are numerous young snows present.

Last year, when there were a large number of young snows present, Maryland hunters killed more than 20,000 snow geese, doubling the kill of the previous year.

However, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statistics, the proportion of the snow geese population taken by hunters is less than 5 percent despite liberalization of seasons and bag limits.

In Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources expects to extend the snow goose season to 107 days between Oct. 16 and March 10. Bag limits are expected to be 15 per day.

"DNR wants to allow non-traditional hunting methods [to increase the kill]," Hindman said. "And that might happen in the next 18 months."

Among the non-traditional methods are the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns as well as extended shooting hours and lengthier seasons.

The USFWS, which had approved these methods in the Mississippi Flyway, has withdrawn them because of litigation from the Humane Society of the United States.

According to DNR, it is likely that traditional hunting will continue until the 2001-2002 seasons.

Maryland has chosen to go with the maximum season allowed under USFWS frameworks, with season splits running Oct. 16-Nov. 26, Dec. 6-Jan. 31 and Feb. 2-March 10. In the final split of the season, hunting will be allowed only on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

DNR's final proposals for other waterfowl seasons are:

Resident Canada geese (late season): Nov. 15-26 and Dec. 13-Jan. 14, two a day; Jan. 15-Feb. 15, three a day. Seasons open only in Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Washington and Montgomery County west of I-270 and west of I-495 from the Virginia line to the intersection of I-495 and I-270.

Atlantic brant: Nov. 9-Nov. 26 and Dec. 13-Jan. 20, two a day.

Sea ducks: Oct. 2-Jan. 20, five a day with no more than four scoters.

Ducks, merganser and coots: Oct. 9-16, Nov. 5-Nov. 26, Dec. 13-Jan. 20, five a day plus one additional teal.

Black duck: Nov. 22-26, Dec. 13-Jan. 20, one a day.

Canvasbacks: Dec. 20-Jan. 20, one a day.

Ducks bag limit: Five a day, including no more than four mallards (two hens), four scoters, three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one pintail, one mottled duck, one canvasback, one black duck. Limit on mergansers is five a day, only one of which may be hooded merganser. Coot limit is 15 a day. Harlequin ducks closed.

National Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day: Oct. 2, and open to all legal species, including black duck and canvasback.

Record mackerel

Buddy Fuller of Mechanicsville in St. Mary's County said he thought he had "a regular rockfish" on the line when he hooked a state-record Spanish mackerel Aug. 16.

"Then, after I got it in the boat, people were saying to me, `That's the biggest mackerel I've ever seen,' " said Fuller, 17 and a recent graduate of Chopticon High School. "I couldn't believe it was a record-breaker. I was astonished."

The mackerel, caught near the Target Ship in the lower bay, measured 32.5 inches and weighed 8.45 pounds.

Fuller was fishing aboard the Lisa S out of Scheible's Fishing Center in Ridge.

Antlerless deer allocations

DNR will allow 11,750 bonus antlerless deer stamps this year in Allegany and Garrett counties and zone 2 of Washington County. The stamps allow licensed hunters to take one antlerless deer during firearms, muzzleloader or bow season.

Last year 9,500 antlerless stamps were available in the same area.

Allocations of antlerless stamps are determined by assessing the deer herd and reviewing trends of antlered and antlerless deer kills during hunting seasons.

Hunters can apply for the stamps by using the form in the current guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland, by picking up a form at regional DNR Service Centers or through the Internet at http: //www.dnr.state.md.us.

Bluefin limit changes

The National Marine Fisheries Service has adjusted its limits for bluefin tuna to allow a total of three fish a boat a day until Oct. 6.

The new limits, which went into effect Sept. 1, are: two bluefin from 27 inches to less than 47 inches and one from 47 inches to less than 73 inches curved fork length.

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