Outdoors notebook: Mixed outlook for migratory waterfowl

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On lakes, rivers and wetlands, mallards are down, wood ducks are up and Pennsylvania's chronic over-abundance of resident Canada geese remains virtually unchanged.

Last week the state Game Commission released 2014-15 migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits, based on a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of an international treaty. The seasons reflect mixed population estimates.

Pennsylvania's problem with resident Canada geese continues despite liberal hunting opportunities including an early season, which this year starts Sept. 1. The Game Commission's management plan calls for 150,000 birds statewide. The 2014 population estimate of 241,000 is down from last year's 279,000, but in line with the 10-year average of 266,000, which biologists believe is more than habitat and human tolerance can handle.

"Observations during June 2014 banding indicates near average juvenile recruitment statewide," Game Commission waterfowl biologist Kevin Jacobs said in a written statement. "Hunters can expect a fall flight similar to recent years. We continue efforts to reach our management plan goal ... primarily through reducing densities in southeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania."

Jacobs said banding studies show most of the mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese harvested in Pennsylvania were hatched in this and surrounding states. The estimated number of mallard breeding pairs, 72,014, was 20 percent below the 1993-2013 long-term average of 90,153 pairs. The 61,153 wood duck breeding pairs estimated in 2014 was 16 percent above the average of 52,824 pairs, an upward population trend indicated at state and flyway levels.

The USFWS is expected to approve state migratory game bird seasons by late September. See the complete 2014-15 waterfowl brochure at www.pgc.state.pa.us.

Doe tags

All Wildlife Management Units are sold out except for the following: 1A (47,000 quota) 373 available; 2A (46,000) 24,417; 2B (60,000) 50,566; 5C (95,000) 61,084; 5D (18,000) 14,977. Over-the-counter sales for WMU 2B, 5C and 5D begin Aug. 25 at country treasurer offices, all other WMUs Oct. 6.

John Hayes: jhayes@post-gazette.com.

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