Help Manage Snow Goose Population

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Once again, hunters are being called on to help manage the overpopulation of snow geese. The Conservation Order Light Goose Season (COLGS), which takes effect February 17 and runs through March 30, is designed to reduce the mid-continent light geese population.

Light geese, which include snow, blue and Ross’ geese, have become so numerous that they are causing severe habitat destruction to their Arctic breeding grounds. Since 1999, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has cooperated with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to establish the COLGS.

"Continued habitat destruction to fragile arctic and subarctic habitats also affects a wide variety of other migratory bird species and arctic animals," said Mike O’Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Hunters are always the first conservationists to step up and support wildlife management efforts, and the COLGS presents a unique opportunity for hunters to contribute to this important conservation effort."

Due to land-use practices in the south-central U.S. which are beneficial to light geese, adult survival rates have increased significantly. The overpopulation of light geese continue to degrade Arctic habitat. Because snow geese feed by grubbing and pulling out plants by the roots, large numbers can literally destroy extensive areas of the tundra.

"Hunting is one of the most effective tools we have to manage the over population of light geese," said O’Meilia. "The special COLGS regulations are designed to maintain the long-term health and stability of light goose populations."

The COLGS provides for certain special methods of take, including one-half hour after sunset shooting hours, no bag limits, electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Even with the special regulations, the birds can be very challenging to harvest in Oklahoma, according to O’Meilia.

“The majority of birds, once they leave their wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast, will overfly our state, but the eastern half of the state is where most light geese can be found,” he said. “The spring distribution however, can be very scattered, so successful hunters will have to be diligent about their day to day scouting.”

For more information and regulations on the COLGS, hunters should consult the “2002-2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide,” available at license dealers across the state, or by logging on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Federal law requires that the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation estimate the harvest of light geese during the Conservation Order Light Goose Season. Hunters who plan to pursue snow, blue and Ross' geese during the Conservation Order are asked to register with the Department and provide their name, address and telephone number so a harvest survey can be administered when the COLGS ends.

Hunters can register for the season by going to the Department's Web site: www.wildlifedepartment.com/Survey/COLGS/COLGS.htm

Or they can mail a letter or postcard to:Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; Attn: COLGS; P.O. Box 53465; Oklahoma City, OK 73152.