New rules await goose hunters

Check stations will be converted to staff in the field

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



There will be no dusky Canada goose season in Southwest Washington this year and check stations for goose hunters are being eliminated.

State Fish and Wildlife Commission members have adopted the 2015-2016 waterfowl hunting regulations. An overhaul of goose-hunting rules in Southwest Washington is part of the package.

Since 1986, Washington and Oregon have had complicated goose-hunting regulations along the lower Columbia and in the Willamette Valley to protect a dusky Canada geese, one of seven subspecies that spend the winters locally.

The old regulations required hunters to pass a goose subspecies identification test, to check their birds in at mandatory check stations and divided Southwest Washington into sub-areas, each with a dusky goose harvest quota.

Hunters who inadvertently shot a dusky Canada goose could no longer hunt geese in Southwest Washington.

But the complex system had problems, according to Don Kraege, waterfowl program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Operating check stations cost $85,000 a year in Washington and $250,000 a year in Oregon. Some hunting areas were more than 30 miles from the nearest check station. Some check stations occasionally had days when no hunters came through.

So Washington and Oregon, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Pacific Flyway Council, are making changes. Among them:

• Shooting of dusky Canada geese will be prohibited. Hunters caught shooting a dusky will get a citation.

• Check stations and the recording of daily harvest will be eliminated.

• Three of the five check station positions will be converted to field staff and assist enforcement efforts.

• Hunting will be open more days during the general goose season, which will extend to March 9. Shooting hours will change from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 30 minutes after the start of official hunting hours to 30 minutes before the end of official hunting hours.

Kraege said the dusky Canada goose population numbers almost 18,000, the largest population since at least the early 1980s. The population is up from a low in the 6,000-bird range in 2009.

Southwest Washington had about 450 active goose hunters and the inadvertent harvest of dusky Canada geese in 2014-15 was about 50 birds.

Kraege said the new regulations reduce state costs. More hunting days, longer shooting hours and an extended season will help farmers with crop losses caused by feeding geese.

The Washington commission did not take action on a proposal that would have required all hunters to pass a new goose identification test before receiving authorization to hunt in Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Pacific and Grays Harbor counties.

Current testing requirements to hunt in the five counties will remain in effect for this season.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted similar goose-hunting regulations.