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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 17, 1999
Chris Tollefson 202-208-5634


States struggling to cope with expanding resident populations of Canada geese in urban and suburban communities will now have greater flexibility to implement population management actions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

A new rule that goes into effect today will streamline the Service's existing permit process to give state wildlife agencies the opportunity to design their own management programs and to take actions to control specific populations without having to seek a separate permit from the Service for each action.

"The new rule will enhance the current permit process with a more efficient system that allows state fish and wildlife agencies to respond more quickly and to effectively manage resident Canada goose populations that pose a threat to human health or property," said Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "We've taken action to protect communities while providing safeguards that will ensure the continued health of these resident goose populations and other migratory Canada goose populations."

The new special Canada goose permits will allow states to act as soon as it becomes apparent that resident Canada geese are a problem. The Service will issue state-specific permits that identify the terms and conditions of potential management actions. As long as states satisfy those conditions, they can implement management actions without seeking separate permits from the Service every time a problem arises. States not wishing to obtain the new permits would continue to operate under the current permitting process.

The Service currently evaluates requests for management actions on a case-by-case basis. But increasing complaints about resident geese combined with sometimes time-consuming Federal procedures can create a lag-time of several weeks between receipt of the complaint and the issuance of a permit. In that time, even small numbers of geese can be a significant problem.

Under the new program, states may contract with private companies and individuals to manage resident populations of Canada geese in accordance with accepted wildlife management guidelines. States will be required to either donate any carcasses to food banks or dispose of them properly but are prohibited from selling the birds or otherwise profiting from the take.

Most populations of migratory Canada geese, which winter in the southern United States and migrate north to summer breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic, have been stable in recent years. But

increasing urban and suburban development has resulted in the creation of ideal goose habitat conditions--park-like open areas with short grass adjacent to small bodies of water--resulting in growing numbers of resident geese on golf courses, parks, airports and other public and private property.

In temperate climates across the United States, these spaces provide geese with relatively stable breeding habitat and low numbers of predators. In addition, hunting is usually not allowed in urban and suburban areas, restricting the ability of state and local authorities to control populations. Those resident populations that do migrate often fly only short distances compared to their migratory relatives that breed in Canada. For these reasons, resident Canada goose populations enjoy consistently high reproduction and survival rates.

In recent years, biologists have documented tremendous increases in populations of Canada geese that nest predominantly within the United States. Recent surveys suggest that the Nation's resident breeding population now exceeds 1 million birds in both the Atlantic and the Mississippi flyways and is continuing to increase. In the Mississippi Flyway alone, the 1998 spring Canada goose population estimate exceeded 1.1 million birds, an increase of 21 percent from 1997.

Resident Canada goose populations are increasingly coming into conflict with human activities in many parts of the country. In parks and other open areas near water, large goose flocks denude lawns of vegetation and create conflicts with their droppings and feather litter. Goose droppings in heavy concentrations can overfertilize lawns, contribute to excessive algae growth in lakes that can result in fish kills, and potentially contaminate municipal water supplies.

The Service has tried in past years to address the growing problem by using existing hunting seasons, creating special seasons designed to harvest resident populations, and issuing permits for control measures. While 31 states now participate in special resident Canada goose hunting seasons and harvests have increased, hunting restrictions in urban and suburban areas have limited their effectiveness.

Because resident Canada goose populations routinely intermingle with migratory Canada geese during fall and winter migrations, any management actions targeted at resident populations during this time of year could potentially effect migratory geese as well.

In order to protect migratory goose populations, permits are only valid between March 11 and August 31, when all migratory bird sport hunting is prohibited and migratory goose populations have largely left potential areas of concern. Any problems with resident populations between September 1 and March 10 will continue to be addressed through either migratory bird hunting regulations or the existing migratory bird permit process. In states with migratory populations of the threatened Aleutian Canada goose, principally Oregon, Washington, and California, the permits are only valid between May 1 and August 31 to further protect Aleutian geese. If the Aleutian Canada goose is taken off the Endangered Species List, those restrictions may be re-evaluated.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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