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
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
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."