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These days, August means an early Canada goose hunt

Nonhunters and hunters who don't target Canada geese may be a bit taken off guard when learning that those hunters they've seen and heard are out taking part in the early Canada goose season in North Dakota -- for good reason.

Nonhunters and hunters who don't target Canada geese may be a bit taken off guard when learning that those hunters they've seen and heard are out taking part in the early Canada goose season in North Dakota -- for good reason.

In 1988, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annual spring waterfowl survey indicated about 18,000 resident Canada geese. The 2007 spring count was at 362,000.

Many North Dakota residents can remember a time in the '60s when seeing a Canada goose was quite a sight, with a mere 100 wild breeding pairs, which created a multipronged approach to raising and restoring Canada goose populations across the prairie.

By 1993, about 20,000 Canada geese dotted the state. About that same time, the resurgence of water and snow recharged wetlands, which had been dry for years.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department began first by suspending relocation efforts, removing closed goose hunting zones and, in 1999, offering the first early Canada goose season in southeastern North Dakota. In 2002, landowners were allowed to apply for permits to directly kill or destroy nests of birds causing depredation in early spring and summer.

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This year the season opens Aug. 15, with the department knowing fully that the obstacles of mosquitoes and lack of harvested crops for field hunting may limit hunter interest. The question is raised: Why aren't they included in the spring snow goose conservation hunt?

To answer that, here's the official response from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

During the spring there are numerous temporal and geographic overlaps between the various Canada goose populations. Because the status of each population varies, and because any management action for resident Canada geese must be legally targeted at only resident Canada geese, we see no feasible way to consider springtime hunting or control of resident Canada geese using hunters during this time period.

Hunters understand the difference between the giant Canadas and the subspecies that are smaller and often referred to as Hutchies or lessers. These different subspecies can make for difficult identification in many hunting conditions, which is why the season in past Septembers was reduced from three weeks to the first two weeks of September as the hunter harvest on nontarget subspecies was beyond the acceptable boundaries established by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Extending the season into August was granted as one of the only remaining viable options under federal regulations for adding more hunter harvest opportunities into the giant Canada goose population management equation.

Hunting seasons in August -- or November, for that matter -- are an end result of cooperation between hunters and landowners. Any season designed is only as good as the interest from the hunting community and cooperation of landowners. It's understood that many landowners will continue with fall work and, in some instances, hesitate to grant access immediately because of harvest or fall fieldwork.

But for the good of the management of Canada geese, the season depends on providing reasonable access to hunters. Landowners who've experienced depredation issues in the past would allow hunters to assist with increasing goose harvest, and hunters need to understand and heed any request from the granting landowner.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov . Read his blog daily at www.areavoices.com/

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