Special take intended to reduce Canada goose population

MITCHELL, S.D. - In early May, the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department passed a special Canada goose take in efforts to decrease the resident Canada goose population in South Dakota.

MITCHELL, S.D. - In early May, the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department passed a special Canada goose take in efforts to decrease the resident Canada goose population in South Dakota.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's spring survey in 2009 estimated the Canada goose population at 166,500 in the state, with a three-year average of 137,000 birds.

Because the overpopulation of Canada geese cause depredation on famers' crops in the state, the GF&P is allowing hunters a 15-day special take in August in hopes to get the population near 80,000 to 90,000, which is what the state Wildlife Division's management plan calls for.

South Dakota GF&P waterfowl biologist Spencer Vaa said the special take should help decrease Canada goose numbers, but nothing is certain.

"This is our first year, so this is uncharted territory for us," said Vaa, who's based in Brookings. "We're hoping we can increase our harvest; that's why we're trying to do it. We'll see what happens."


Last year, North Dakota instituted a first-ever August management take, and Vaa said that the state's total harvest last year was very similar to years when it didn't have a special take.

We're not alone. North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and areas of Canada are having problems with Canada goose depredation.

"They've got everything they need," Vaa said. "They have a lot of good wetlands and lots of food. They like grass and soybeans when they're small. We've got out guys out on fields almost every day chasing geese off."

McCook County is one of 15 counties that are eligible to hunt for the special August management take.

The county's conservation officer, Matt Talbert, said he's had a few depredation calls come in during the spring, and expects many hunters to participate in the August season.

"With it being new, I think there's going to be a lot of interest in it," he said. "It's close enough to Sioux Falls where most of the population base is, and I think a lot of the guys that are big goose hunters are going to want to give it a try for the first time."

Davison County is not eligible for the special management take. Brookings, Clark, Codington, Day, Deuel, Hamlin, Grant, Kingsbury, Lake, McCook, Marshall, Minnehaha, Moody and Roberts counties are in the special hunting zone. For hunters, the federal waterfowl stamp will be required, and licensed hunters can take up to eight geese daily with a possession limit of 32.

"In our area, you don't see a lot of goose depredation problems," said Andy Petersen, a GF&P officer based in Mitchell. "We have probably one or two calls a year in the Davison County area, but as you go further east, there's going to more opportunity to harvest some birds."


Last September, the GF&P had a special early goose season in which 39,000 resident birds were harvested in the state. After the special August take this year, there again will be an early September season, but unlike last year when the limit was five, it most likely will be boosted to eight.

"The Fish and Wildlife Services has to approve it, but I'm 99 percent sure they will (increase the limit)," said Vaa, who added the finalizing will occur in July. "There's no reason from them not to."

Last year, after September concluded, the daily limit went from five Canada geese to three. This year, Vaa hopes that, too, will change.

"We're going to try to increase that at the flyway meetings summer in July," he said. "We're working on it, and I'm not saying that it's a done deal, but I'm hopeful that besides having a bag increase in September, there's potential from having an increase from three in the regular season to maybe four or five."

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