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Major changes to waterfowl regs coming

Frank Galusha

By Frank Galusha
05/09/14 – Split seasons of from 38 to 105 days, bag limits of 4 to 7 ducks per day including to up to 7 mallard, up to 3 pintail, canvasbacks and redheads and up to 7 scaup are being proposed for the 2014/15 waterfowl season in the Northeastern Zone.

In addition, goose hunters may be allowed to take up to 25 per day including up to 15 white geese and up to 10 dark geese but not more than two large Canada geese. These changes and more are up for consideration according to a notice regarding proposed changes to waterfowl hunting regulations posted by the Fish & Game Commission today.

The Balance of the State Zone also faces the possibility of a split season of up to 100 days with the same bag and possession limits for ducks and geese as the Northeastern Zone. The BOS Zone may also get early and late 5-day goose seasons.

Bear in mind "up to" in the above paragraphs could mean 0 to 7 or 0 to 3, etc. For example, according to Bill Gaines of Gaines & Associates, a voice for California's hunters, the max the USFWS model will allow for pintail in the best of years is 3. The preliminary range the DFW offers must allow for everything from a closed pintail season to the max of 3. With survey data still being gathered, we won't know the USFWS max limit until late July. The CA FGC can adopt more restrictive limits than those offered by the USFWS, but cannot be more liberal," Gaines said. "Final season and bag limits will be adopted at the Commission's August meeting," Gaines added.

Likewise, Special Management Areas along the North Coast may see a split season of up to 105 days for all Canada geese except for large Canada Geese, which will not be open for more than 100 days or beyond the last Sunday in January. Goose limits there may 6 to 10 per day but with only one large Canada goose in the mix.

More liberal white goose limits are being considered because wintering white goose populations in California are at record levels. Both Ross’ geese and lesser snow geese populations (defined as white geese in Section 502 (a) in the Pacific Flyway are about 1,000,000 birds and are well above their population goals (100,000 and 200,000 respectively). These species nest in the high Arctic of Canada and Alaska, and in the mid-continent region where white goose populations expanded to such a high level that long-lasting damage was occurring to arctic habitats. The Canadian Wildlife Service has proposed to designate both populations as overabundant because of the rapid population growth since 2003.

Dark geese are also more abundant thus the intent is to increase the harvest of white-fronted geese and both Small and Large Canada geese as defined in Section 502(a). The white-fronted goose population is currently about 700,000 birds and above the population goal of 300,000 birds established in the Flyway Management Plan. The nesting range of Large Canada geese has expanded to include urban and suburban areas in the Central Valley. Complaints from private property owners regarding the effects of resident Canada geese occur regularly.

Exact wording of the proposed changes, which will not be approved until August 6, may be seen at the F&GC website. Youth Hunt dates and other proposed regulation changes can be seen at this website as well.

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