Refer: Hugh Vickery, Washington, D.C. - 202-208-5634
April 1, 1998
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed establishing a new permit to allow state wildlife agencies to deal with and control resident Canada goose populations that pose a threat to public health and safety or are damaging property.
Under the proposed new permit, between March 11 and August 31, states would not have to obtain individual permits from the Service each time they determined that a Canada goose control action was necessary, as is currently required. At other times of the year, states would still have to seek permits on a case-by-case basis to ensure these efforts do not interfere with effective regulation and monitoring of other Canada goose populations. The new permit would only be available to state wildlife agencies.
"Bolstered by plenty of habitat and a lack of natural predators, burgeoning populations of resident Canada geese increasingly are coming into conflict with people and property," said Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "This proposal gives state wildlife agencies the flexibility to manage these resident populations without having to get authorization from the Fish and Wildlife Service every time they decide to take action."
The new permits would contain a number of conditions. States, for example, would be able to use lethal means of controlling resident Canada goose populations only when alternative nonlethal means have proven ineffective or unfeasible. States also would have to set up the control actions in such a way that they are not actually a "hunt" and would have to dispose of killed birds in a proper way such as donating them to charities to provide food for homeless people.
Control efforts include harassment, culling, and trapping and relocating injurious flocks. States generally employ these means in areas where reducing populations through hunting is not possible.
The control actions would not be allowed if they affect any species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, in areas of California, Oregon, and Washington, the proposal would restrict lethal control activities to May 1 to August 31 to protect the threatened Aleutian Canada goose.
Wildlife agencies recognize and manage Canada geese by distinct populations. The majority of these populations nest in the Arctic and spend winter in the United States; however, several populations nest and reside in the temperate climates throughout the year and often are referred to as "resident." While "migratory" and "resident" birds look very similar and often intermingle, they rarely interbreed nor do birds often shift from one population to the other.
The proposal focuses on resident Canada geese that live year-round in the Lower 48 States. These locally breeding birds have settled onto golf courses, urban parks, corporate campuses, and other protected areas that offer excellent year-round habitat both low in predators and high in food supply.
The proposal was published in the March 31 Federal Register. The public
may comment on the proposal in writing until June 1, 1998. Comments should be sent to
Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203.
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 94 million acres of land and water comprised of 512 national wildlife refuges, 65 national fish hatcheries, 38 wetland management districts with waterfowl production areas, and 50 wildlife coordination areas.
The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as
wetlands, administers the Endangered Species Act, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes Federal
excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies. This program is
a cornerstone of the Nation's wildlife management efforts, funding fish and wildlife
restoration, boating access, hunter education, shooting ranges, and related projects
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Proposed Rule: Special Canada Goose Permit
Question. What are resident Canada geese and how do they differ from other Canada geese?
Answer. There are currently 11 subspecies of Canada geese (Branta
canadensis) recognized in North America. For the most part, these populations nest in
arctic and sub-arctic regions of Canada and Alaska and are encountered in the conterminous
United States only during the fall, winter, and spring of the year or as a result of human
placement. Two subspecies of Canada geese nest and reside predominately within the
conterminous United States (B.c. maxima and B.c. moffitti), the
"giant" and "western" Canada geese, respectively. No evidence
currently exists documenting inter-breeding between Canada geese nesting within the
conterminous United States and those subspecies nesting in northern Canada and Alaska. The
geese nesting and residing within the conterminous United States in the months of June,
July, and August are collectively referred to as "resident" Canada geese.
Question. What is the status of resident Canada goose populations?
Answer. Canada geese are among the most numerous and diverse
of all waterfowl species in North America. Currently, breeding populations of Canada geese
collectively exceed 4 million birds and are providing an annual sport harvest in the
United States and Canada of approximately 1.5 million birds. Numbers of Canada geese
breeding and residing within the Lower 48 States have increased dramatically during the
past several decades. Currently, resident Canada goose populations in both the Atlantic
and Mississippi flyways now exceed 1 million birds each and have increased an average of
17 percent and 6 percent per year, respectively, during the last 10 years. Numbers of
resident Canada geese in the central and western portions of the country have shown
similar growth rates during the past 10 years.
Question. What is this new permit and why has the Service proposed it?
Answer. As pointed out above, these resident Canada goose populations have increased significantly in recent years. As such, these growing populations are coming into increasing numbers of conflicts with human activities, causing damage to personal and public property and raising concerns related to health and human safety. To date, the Service has attempted to address this growing problem through existing annual hunting season-frameworks and issuance of control permits on a case-by-case basis. While this approach has provided relief in some areas, the Service realizes that sport harvest will not completely address the problem and that the current permit-issuance system has become a time-consuming and burdensome process for both applicants and the Service.
Therefore, the Service is proposing to add a new permit option specifically for the
management and control of resident Canada geese. The permit would be available to state
conservation or wildlife management agencies on a state-specific basis. Under this permit,
states and their designated agents could initiate resident goose damage management and
control injury problems within the conditions/restrictions of the permit program. Such a
permit would be restricted to the period between March 11 and August 31. This new special
permit would increase the use and availability of control measures, decrease the number of
injurious resident Canada geese in localized areas, have little impact on hunting or other
recreation dependent on the availability of resident Canada geese, and allow injury/damage
problems to be dealt with on the state/local level, thereby resulting in more responsive
and timely control activities. The new special permit would further result in biologically
sound and more cost-effective and efficient resident Canada goose damage management.
Question. Isn't the special Canada goose permit contrary to the protections afforded Canada geese by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?
Answer. The MBTA provides strong measures for the protection
and conservation of migratory birds (including resident Canada geese), while at the same
time providing opportunities for people to use the resource for sport, recreation, and
scientific endeavors. The MBTA also provides considerable flexibility for dealing with
situations in which birds may come into conflict with human interests, such as those posed
by the increasing numbers of resident Canada geese.
Question. Why isn't the existing procedure of issuing permits on a case-by-case basis adequate for dealing with resident Canada goose problems?
Answer. Because of the administrative procedures involved in
the issuance of permits, there may be a lag time of several weeks between a state's
request for a permit and its receipt of a permit authorizing a control action. In the
interim, resident Canada geese can cause significant damage to personal property and
economic losses. The new special Canada goose permit will allow states and their
designated agents to conduct management activities as soon as it becomes apparent that
resident Canada geese are a problem. The new permit would also rely on a greater
application of community standards and preferences by allowing judgments determining
appropriate levels of control to be made at a more local level.
Question. Who are designated agents and what role do they have in the new permit?
Answer. Designated agents are, for the purposes of the
permit, treated the same as employees of the state. The state wildlife management agency,
as the permit holder, remains legally responsible for any and all control activities
conducted under the permit.
Question. I am currently suffering damage and other economic losses
due to resident Canada geese. Can I obtain one of these new permits?
Answer. No. The new special Canada goose permit is only
available to state wildlife management agencies responsible for migratory bird management.
Question. Why was the special Canada goose permit limited to situations between March 11 to August 31?
Answer. Because resident Canada goose populations interact
and overlap with other Canada goose populations during the fall and winter, these other
goose populations could potentially be affected by any management action or program
targeted at resident Canada goose populations during the fall and winter. Therefore, to
avoid potential conflicts with existing Canada goose management plans on other Canada
goose populations, the new special permit is restricted to the period March 11 through
August 31 each year. These dates encompass the period when sport hunting is prohibited
throughout the conterminous United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty (1916) and
resulting regulations promulgated under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918).
Injury/damage complaints occurring during the period September 1 to March 10, the period
open to sport hunting, will continue to be addressed through either migratory bird hunting
regulations or the existing migratory bird permit process.
Question. What effect will the special Canada goose permits have on resident Canada goose populations? What about other, migratory Canada goose populations?
Answer. Under the new permit, the Service expects that the
use of resident Canada goose control and management activities, particularly lethal
control methods such as egg/nest destruction and methods associated with hazing techniques
of adult birds, would increase. However, following this initial increase, continual use of
hazing methods should become more effective and may result in fewer overall lethal control
activities. Such lethal and nonlethal activities would be expected to decrease the number
of injurious resident Canada geese in local areas, especially urban/suburban areas.
Regionally, little overall impact to the resident Canada goose population would be
expected because many Canada goose populations have demonstrated the ability to sustain
harvest rates in excess of 20 percent. It is anticipated that the magnitude of any lethal
control activities will be well below 20 percent of any state's resident Canada goose
breeding population. Because the new permit is restricted to the period of March 11 to
August 31, the Service expects no impact on other Canada goose populations.
Question. What impact will the new special permit have on existing sport-hunting opportunities?
Answer. The Service expects little impact on sport hunting
under the new special permit. Resident Canada goose populations in areas that are targeted
for management/control activities are generally those that provide little or no
sport-hunting opportunities due to restricted access within urban/suburban areas where
hunting is either precluded or severely restricted. Areas and resident Canada goose
populations already open to sport hunting would be expected to remain open, as special
Canada goose season frameworks and guidelines would not change.
Question. Wouldn't a depredation order be a simpler, more cost-effective/efficient solution?
Answer. While the Service agrees that depredation orders in
other circumstances have proven to be valuable tools in wildlife damage management, the
Service believes that management of resident Canada geese deserves special attention and
consideration that can best be provided by the new special permit. The Service believes
that a special permit will provide the management flexibility needed to address this
serious problem and at the same time simplify the procedures needed to administer this
program. A special permit will satisfy the need for an efficient/cost-effective program
while allowing the Service to maintain management control.
Question. Aren't non-lethal control techniques effective in reducing conflicts between resident Canada geese and people?
Answer. The Service also prefers nonlethal control activities, such as habitat modification, as the first means of eliminating resident Canada goose conflict/damage problems and has specified language to this effect in the proposed regulations. However, habitat modification and other harassment tactics do not always work satisfactorily and lethal methods are sometimes necessary to increase the effectiveness of nonlethal management methods.
While it is unlikely that all resident Canada goose/human conflicts can be eliminated
in all urban settings, implementation of broad-scale resident Canada goose management
activities may result in an overall reduced need for other management actions, such as
large-scale goose round-ups and lethal control.
Question. Doesn't the new special permit discourage states from investing in non-lethal, long-term solutions to resident Canada geese?
Answer. The new special permit does not absolve states from the responsibility of employing non-lethal control techniques. It simply provides another tool for use in an integrated approach to reducing problems caused by resident Canada geese. The Service believe that the states share responsibility for reducing resident Canada goose problems and that the states should promote habitat management and other facilities that exclude or repel resident Canada geese, as well as the use of non-lethal deterrents.