BELLINGHAM - The state's waterfowl hunters can look forward to a season much like last year's under regulations adopted Saturday by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The commission, meeting in a regularly-scheduled session, unanimously adopted a 107-day season, the maximum period allowed by the U.S. Fish and wildlife Service. The length is consistent with the number of days approved by the commission in recent years.
"If weather conditions cooperate, we expect duck hunting to be relatively good in many areas of the state this year," said Don Kraege, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"Even though local duck populations are at lower levels than last year, wet weather in south central Canada created good conditions for duck production," Kraege added.
This is the first year that waterfowl regulations have been drafted with assistance from a 22-member Waterfowl Advisory Group assembled by WDFW. The group, comprised of citizens from both western and eastern Washington, met twice last year to give input on proposed seasons and other waterfowl issues.
Kraege said the group's members are expected to play an important role in coming years in relaying to the Department comments and concerns from citizens living in their respective communities.
Under the 2003-04 regulations, duck hunters will have a 60 day season for pintails and canvasbacks, running from Oct. 11-15 and Dec. 2 to Jan. 25. A youth hunt is scheduled for Sept. 20-21, and includes a bag limit of one pintail and one canvasback.
Kraege said that the new regulation package provides goose hunters with both good and bad news.
The good news is that eastern Washington goose hunters will get almost an extra week of opportunity in the general season beginning Oct. 11. Previously, hunters had six days of opportunity in September when conditions are generally not as favorable, and the Commission opted to shift some goose season days from September to October.
The bad news is that state and federal budget constraints have forced the Department to cutback on dusky geese checking stations in southwest Washington, resulting in fewer days of hunting. All geese taken in the area must be checked to determine their impact on the dusky population, which is only 16,000 birds by federal estimate.
As a result, the southwest hunting opportunity will be reduced by about one-third compared to last year, opening in December instead of late November. Kraege said. The season could be extended if additional federal funding becomes available.
In other action, commissioners restricted the eligibility for public safety cougar removal permits to Washington residents with a valid big game license, and voted to issue the removal permits in Game Management Units 101 and 204 in north central Washington no earlier than Jan. 1 of each year. Both actions are designed to strengthen the public safety removal process.