USFWS considering emperor geese hunt

Subsistence hunts for this small goose have been closed for 29 years

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are considering reopening of a spring and summer subsistence hunting season for emperor geese, which has been closed for 29 years, along with a fall sport hunting season, last allowed 30 years ago.

Members of the USFWS’s regulation committee recently approved regulatory changes that would allow for these hunts. Still there are administrative steps remaining before the agency can move forward with developing a proposed rule, says Andrea Medeiros, a spokeswoman for USFWS’s Alaska Region. Then the regulation would need to codify before any hunt could open.

“We don’t want to assume that we get a final rule published,” Medeiros said. “We are just a couple of steps further in the process. We will notify the public if and when a proposed rule is published.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register there would be a comment period, likely 60 days, and then, if there are changes because of public comment, they would be included in the final rule.

This small goose, with slate-gray plumage, has a white head and hind-neck, a dark fore-neck, a short pink bill, and white tail with black under tail coverts. Their diet consists of plants, crustaceans and mollusks.

Emperor geese breed on islands in the Bering Sea and marshy coasts of western Alaska and winter mainly in the Aleutian Islands east of Kodiak. They also breed in Kamchatka, Russia, and in winter may migrate as far south as Oregon, according to the Field Guide to Birds of North America. Emperor geese have also been seen occasionally in Japan and Canada.

Advertisement

The emperor goose population declined from an estimated 139,000 in 1964 to 42,000 in 1986, and the causes of the decline are not well understood, according to the field guide. Their population currently appears to be on the rise in Alaska.

Primary threats to emperor geese are believed to be coastal oil pollution and climate change in its range.

Since 2012, the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council has received several requests to open a season for emperor geese.

The first step toward opening a season was for this council to develop a management plan for emperor geese.  The plan, which allows for a spring and summer federal subsistence hunt, was approved in September.  In conjunction with efforts of the AMBCC, the Pacific Flyway Council developed a complimentary plan that allows for a fall and winter harvest of emperor geese, Medeiros said. These management plans share the same population objectives, harvest strategies and monitoring methods, she said.

Patty Schwalenberg, executive director of the AMBCC, said that the proposed regulatory changes would include an allowable fall-winter harvest of 1,000 birds.

The goal would be to have a final rule published before March, when the spring subsistence-hunting season begins, she said.

Advertisement