Pennsylvania sees some success in reducing problem geese

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Resident Canada goose populations remain troublesome but on the decline in Pennsylvania, the result of a successful plan to reduce resident goose numbers. Early migratory bird regulations for 2012-13, released last week, include increased restrictions or a ban on Canada goose hunting where population levels have reached optimal levels or too many geese were taken.

Early migratory bird seasons will begin Sept. 1 with a split triple season for mourning doves (Sept. 1-29, Oct. 27-Nov. 24, Dec. 26-Jan. 5), and a daily bag limit of 15, possession limit of 30.

The early statewide season for resident Canada geese runs Sept. 1-25, daily limit three, possession limit six in most areas. In parts of Crawford, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, goose hunting regulations are more restrictive (daily limit one, possession two). The restriction doesn't apply to special youth waterfowl hunting days Sept. 15 and Sept. 22, when regular season regulations apply.

September goose hunting is banned in State Game Lands 214 and 46, and in controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, where populations are below management goals.

Nature provided Pennsylvania with virtually no "resident" Canada geese -- the residents are an artificial, man-made population. Nine subspecies of the migratory bird nest in arctic and subarctic Canada. Kevin Jacobs, a wildlife biologist for the Game Commission, said that in the 1940s the wildlife agency stocked nesting geese from the physically largest subspecies in Crawford County, and in the 1960s planted more in Lancaster County, with the goal of enhancing Pennsylvania goose hunts. The experiment, he said was "an overwhelming success."

"These birds lay five to six eggs in a clutch, they mate for life and are excellent parents, they stay together as a family unit for the first year of live, have few natural predators after maturity and have a high survival rate," he said. "The young imprinted there and they stayed as family groups."

The planting of geese was perhaps too successful. Based on habitat and food availability, the Game Commission set a management goal of 150,000 birds statewide. But by 2003-2004, an estimated 330,000 resident geese had colonized parks, farms and lawns across the state, forcing residents to deal with an inconvenient "ick" factor of excess goose waste, and forcing counties, municipalities and private landowners to remove the waste and chase away the geese.

Hunters capitalizing on liberalized resident Canada goose seasons have reduced the population by about 30 percent in the last eight or nine years with an estimated 2010-2012 average of 230,000 geese statewide.

Additional 2012 early migratory bird seasons: Virginia and sora rail , Sept. 1-Nov. 9 (daily three, possession three). No season for king and clapper rails. Moorhen and gallinules, Sept. 1-Nov. 9 (daily three, possession six).

Migratory bird and waterfowl seasons are based on a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Regular and late waterfowl seasons are expected to be announced in mid-August.



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