What is the Status of the Atlantic Population of Canada Geese?
Annual productivity has been below average for 5 of the past 6 years, and adverse weather conditions on the nesting grounds in Northern Canada resulted in very poor production in 2018. As a result, the breeding population index dropped from 161,000 in 2017 to 112,000 in 2018. (For additional information on AP Goose Status, see this document).
Will this cause changes to the current 2018-19 hunting season dates and/or bag limits for AP Canada geese?
No. The current 2018-19 hunting season dates will remain as published in the Virginia Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations and on our website. All 2018-19 migratory game bird seasons and bag limits went through the annual public review and comment period in February and March 2018. These public comments were used to finalize the season selections, which were then forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) who approved the seasons and published them in the Federal Register.
How are AP Canada goose seasons and bag limits determined?
The Atlantic Flyway Council in coordination with the USFWS follows the guidelines developed in the AP Canada goose harvest strategy, to set season and bag limits for the flyway states including Virginia. This harvest strategy utilizes a 3-year average of the estimated number of breeding pairs of geese to determine the hunting season recommendation. After a long (15 year) period of relative stability and “moderate” hunt packages, the current decline in the breeding pair estimate has raised concerns about this population.
Will there be changes in future AP Canada goose hunting seasons?
In September of 2018, the Atlantic Flyway Council recommended moving to a more restrictive hunting season for AP Canada geese in the 2019-20 season. This recommendation was forwarded to the USFWS, who will set the framework for 2019-20 season in January of 2019. If adopted by the USFWS, this framework will restrict the AP goose season in Virginia in 2019-20 to 30 days with a 1-goose daily limit. The season could be divided into no more than two segments, and the 30 days would be held between November 15 and February 5. The department’s annual public review process will allow hunters to provide input on where they would like to see the 30 hunting days positioned for the 2019-20 hunting season.
Will a Restrictive season in the AP zone affect the seasons in the other Canada goose hunt Zones in Virginia?
No. The frameworks for the September resident Canada goose season, and Canada goose seasons in the other Goose Zones (SJBP and Resident Zones), will likely remain unchanged for 2019-20.
Will other Atlantic Flyway states be affected by the implementation of a restrictive hunt package for AP Canada geese?
Yes. The AP Canada Goose Harvest Strategy applies to all Atlantic Flyway states that have AP Canada Goose hunting zones. There are four regions [New England (VT, CT, MA), Mid-Atlantic (NY, PA, NJ), Chesapeake (MD, DE, VA), and North Carolina] specified in the Harvest Strategy. Under the restrictive package, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regions will have a 30-day season with a daily bag limit of two birds. The Chesapeake region will have a 30-day season with a daily bag limit of one bird. North Carolina’s season will remain unchanged as they generally implement a more restrictive season (14 days/1 bird).
How long will Virginia be in a restrictive harvest package for AP Canada Geese?
By moving to a reduced season in 2019-2020, biologists hope to limit the amount of time spent in a restrictive harvest package. However, recovery of the number of breeding pairs to a level capable of sustaining a moderate harvest will depend on favorable weather conditions for nesting and subsequent growth of the population.
What can I do to help the recovery of the AP Canada goose population?
Seasons and bag limits use the best scientific information available to accomplish the goal of long-term conservation of the population. Hunter reports of banded waterfowl along with participation in harvest and parts collections surveys are critical components of harvest strategies. Hunters who wish to do more can always voluntarily restrict their own harvest. Habitat based management practices such as leaving standing row crops in fields, planting cover crops, and limiting disturbance to roost areas will help ensure that wintering geese leave Virginia in the best possible physical condition. Energy reserves acquired during the winter will help these geese arrive on the nesting grounds in prime condition and ensure they are ready to begin nesting as soon as weather conditions permit.