WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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February 19, 1997
Contact: Tim Waters (206)775-1311, ext. 119

1996-97 Southwest Washington Canada goose season longest in recent history; harvest up substantially

OLYMPIA -- Southwest Washington Canada goose hunters this year enjoyed their longest season since the early 1980s, and harvested more than double the number of birds compared to last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reported today.

The hunters' success comes after new procedures were adopted by the department to reduce the incidental take by hunters of dusky Canada geese, a subspecies whose population has been declining in recent years.

Because duskys are difficult to distinguish from other Canada goose subspecies, hunters often mistakenly shoot the birds. In recent years, the southwest Washington goose season had to be cut short as a conservation measure to protect duskys.

"We're extremely pleased that we were able to keep the 1996-97 season open for the entire 25 days scheduled by the Fish and Wildlife Commission," said Bern Shanks, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Not only did hunters have excellent opportunities, but their success should assist us in our efforts to reduce the agricultural damage caused by Canada geese."

The season began in late November and ran on various days until Jan. 19.

Don Kraege, who oversees the department's waterfowl program, said hunters this year harvested 3,857 Canada geese in Clark, Cowlitz, Pacific and Wahkiakum counties. Last year, only 1,833 birds were harvested in the same counties after the season had to be closed early to protect duskys.

In some areas, last year's season lasted only two days, while in other areas it lasted eight. It had been scheduled to last from nine to 20 days, depending on location.

Kraege said an estimated 32 duskys were shot mistakenly this season, compared to 57 last season.

Waterfowl managers said the special late Canada goose season, which started Feb. 5 in the same four southwest Washington counties, also should provide hunters with good opportunities. That season, which is open only to advanced hunter education program graduates, is scheduled to last until March 10.

Since 1985, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a special southwest Washington Canada goose hunting season to provide recreational opportunities and, in the process, assist farmers whose crops are being eaten by geese.

Most years, however, the season has been closed early to protect duskys, which have been declining because of low reproduction rates. The 1964 Alaska earthquake lifted the bird's wetland breeding areas, thereby allowing plants to grow where they nest. The plants, in turn, provide cover for the dusky's predators.

Last winter, in an attempt to reduce dusky mortality rates and keep the Canada goose season open longer, the department for the first time required hunters to pass a written exam before hunting in southwest Washington. The exam was geared toward teaching them how to better identify duskys.

At the same time, changes were implemented at field check stations to allow department personnel to more accurately identify duskys and other goose subspecies.

"We feel both changes contributed significantly to allowing us to keep the season open for the scheduled 25 days," Kraege said.

"That's a big change from past years, when we've usually closed it early, sometimes after only a couple of days. Hunters should be commended for their efforts this year to reduce their take of duskys."