In response to requests from hunters, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will extend the season for snow, blue and Ross’ geese in the 2015-16 season. According to Commission biologist Doug Howell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Conservation Order allows additional opportunities for hunters to target “light’ geese but requires a re-ordering of hunting dates.
"A Conservation Order is a special management option authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to control overabundant populations when traditional hunting seasons have failed to control their numbers," Howell said. "Under the current federal framework, we cannot hunt any waterfowl species more than 107 days, but a provision allows taking birds under a Conservation Order, giving us the opportunity to extend the season beyond the regular season framework that traditionally ran through March 10. Under the Conservation Order in North Carolina, the light goose season will be extended through March 31."
Because the Conservation Order cannot be held when any other waterfowl season is open, the Commission will close the regular light goose season with the last youth waterfowl-hunting day and open the Conservation Order the next Monday. During the extended season, hunters can hunt light geese using electronic calls and unplugged shotguns with no bag or possession limits. Hunting can take place through one-half hour after sunset.
Populations of greater and lesser snow geese and Ross' geese have exploded on a continent-wide basis due to the continuation of restrictive hunting regulations during the 1970s and 1980s and increased availability of waste grains. These factors resulted in a higher reproductive rate, higher adult survival rate and offspring that were in better condition to survive. Light geese have reached population levels that are causing extensive, possibly irreversible, damage to fragile arctic and sub-arctic tundra breeding and nesting grounds. Large numbers of migrating and wintering light geese can also destroy large areas of coastal marshland and agricultural fields. In North Carolina, that’s of particular importance in the northeastern corner of the state.
"We can provide this additional opportunity to hunt light geese," Howell said, "but it is a roll of the dice whether they will stick around every year through March. The last two winters were exceptionally cold, so we had good numbers of snow geese in March. Under similar conditions in the future, hunters should be able to pick up additional opportunity."
Waterfowl hunters participating in the Conservation Order must obtain a free, self-issued permit and complete a harvest survey. Information about the Conservation Order will be available at www.ncwildlife.org.