New Jersey to Implement Spring Snow Goose Conservation Order
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife has announced plans to implement a recently approved Conservation Order (CO) for snow geese. Implementation of the CO in New Jersey will be from March 11 – April 18, 2009. Under the CO, snow geese can be taken with no bag limits outside of the traditional hunting period while also allowing the use of electronic calls and shotguns loaded with up to seven shells.
A Conservation Order is a special management action authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that is needed to control certain wildlife populations when traditional management programs are unsuccessful in preventing overabundance of that population. This action is granted under the authority of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The intent of the CO is to reduce and/or stabilize North American "light" (greater and lesser snow geese as well as Ross's geese are collectively referred to as "light" geese) goose populations that are above population objectives. In the Atlantic Flyway, greater snow geese are the most abundant light goose population. These birds breed in the Eastern Canadian high Arctic and winter predominantly in the eastern United States.
Key fall and spring migration staging grounds are centered on the Saint Lawrence River Valley in southern Quebec. The greater snow goose population has grown to record highs and now numbers approximately 1,017,000 birds. This level is twice the population objective of 500,000 birds. Negative impacts on wetland habitats have been observed and measured on greater snow goose breeding, staging and wintering areas. Serious damage to agriculture occurs on migration and wintering areas as well.
Decreasing the light goose population will help lessen negative impacts to Arctic, migration and wintering habitats, thus improving the health of all wildlife populations associated with these habitats. It will also help in reducing agricultural damage.
In June 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the management of light geese. The EIS examined five alternatives for managing light goose populations, ranging from no action to the preferred alternative of authorizing regulations to increase harvest for overabundant light goose populations. In November 2008, the Service finalized rules to implement the recommendation in the EIS.
Special regulations and a CO have been in place in the Central and Mississippi Flyways since 1999, through the Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act. The final rule makes the regulations permanent in those flyways, and also makes Atlantic Flyway states, including New Jersey, eligible to implement them.
Implementation of special regulations has met with some success in mid-continent North America. Since implementation of the CO in 1999, the harvest of mid-continent light geese has more than doubled, and the population growth rate as measured by the midwinter index has been reduced.
Major components of the CO in New Jersey include the following:
Conservation Order Dates: March 11-April 18, 2009, except Sundays. Snow geese may not be pursued on Sundays during this period.
CO participants can obtain a certification in two ways:
Reporting Requirements: Per Federal regulations, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is required to report CO participant activity and harvest to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters who become certified for the CO must complete a harvest survey. Participants should use the hunt diary sheet that they will receive with their CO Certification to record their activity and harvest. The diary sheet will have instructions for recording activities.
CO participants who register on the web should report their activities at www.wildlifelicense.com/nj/. CO participants who receive paper CO certifications should return their hunt diaries by mail to the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the address printed on the certification.
All CO participants must complete/return their harvest surveys by May 10, 2009. Those who receive certifications must complete a harvest survey even if they did not pursue or harvest any geese. Failure to report your information may make you ineligible to participate in COs in future years.
CO Location: Statewide
Legal Species: Greater snow geese, lesser snow geese, and Ross's geese
Firearms: Shotguns not larger than 10 gauge and capable of holding no more than 7 shells, including magazine and chamber.
Ammunition: Nontoxic shot not to exceed Size T (0.200 inch) only. Nontoxic shot includes steel, bismuth, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-nickel-iron (HEVI-SHOT), tungsten-iron-nickel-tin (TINT), tungsten-bronze and tungsten-tin-bismuth. Possession of lead shot is prohibited.
Electronic Calls Allowed: Yes
Shooting Hours: ˝ hour before sunrise to ˝ hour after sunset
Daily Bag and Possession Limit: None
Prohibited Under Federal Regulations:
(i) With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10-gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance.
Where to Pursue Light Geese: During the CO, snow geese may be found statewide but are most abundant in four locations.
First and foremost, Delaware Bay tidal marshes and nearby inland farm fields contain the most light geese. During the past few years, about 100,000 snow geese are counted in these areas during the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey. Delaware Bay tidal marshes from Goshen Creek in Cape May County to Mad Horse Creek in Salem County contain an abundance of public land. The Division administers much of this public land as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's). A list of WMAs and maps can be found at www.njfishandwildlife.com/wmaland.htm. Key WMA's for spring snow geese include (from south to north): Dennis Creek, Heislerville, Egg Island, Fortescue, Nantuxent, New Sweden, Dix and Mad Horse Creek. (Information on other accessible public hunting areas is found on http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/hunting_publicland.htm. Excursions for snow geese in these marshes are much more likely to be successful with a dependable powerboat. Those venturing for snow geese in late winter are urged to follow winter boating safety precautions - see the NJ State Police news release at www.state.nj.us/njsp/news/pr112108.html.
How Can I prepare the Birds After a Successful Trip?: The Arctic Goose Joint Venture Home Page includes a downloadable cookbook with 40 pages of snow goose recipes available at: www.agjv.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=41.