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Thread: NJ adds spring hunting season to thin population of snow geese

  1. #1

    NJ adds spring hunting season to thin population of snow geese

    State adds spring hunting season to thin population of snow geese

    Posted by nabdou March 07, 2009 20:24PM

    Forget global warming. An ex*plosion of snow geese is ravaging the Arctic tundra -- and New Jer*sey is hoping it can help.
    Beginning Wednesday, New Jer*sey, along with New York, Dela*ware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Vermont, will launch a month-long hunting season targeting the over*populating Arctic visitors.
    Matt Rainey/The Star-LedgerSnow Geese take off at sunrise from Merrill Creek Reservoir.
    While licensed waterfowl hunters are able to shoot at the geese during the usual fall-to-spring wa*terfowl season, this year they are getting a bonus season to help re*duce the number of birds.
    Hunters will have extended hours in the field, are free to load up with extra shells and can bring down as many of the white geese as fly into their sights through April 18.
    Although only about 10,000 snow geese winter in New Jersey from fall to spring, according to Ted Nichols, a biologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, millions pass through here on their way to Arctic regions across Canada and Alaska to breed. And it is on that journey that all the problems occur -- thanks to modern farming.
    Matt Rainey/The Star-Ledger
    ''It's largely a man-made phe*nomenon," Nichols said of the ex*ploding numbers. "Historically, they would winter in coastal marshes in the south, the southern United States and Mexico. During the spring migration, they used to stick to coastal marshes, feeding on the grasses."
    The limited food supply kept populations in check. But when the geese slowly discovered large delec*table fields of grain and corn throughout the United States they began to steer off their once-nar*row migration routes across North America. Richer foods became available everywhere, year-round, and as the geese became hardier and predators fewer, mortality rates dropped.
    Large numbers of the birds are even wintering farther north than they did decades ago, including in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and New England.
    ''They are stronger, healthier and returning to the Arctic in tre*mendous condition for breeding," said Nichols. "They lay more eggs, about five or six, and hatch more young."
    And 5 million snow geese are too much for the Arctic to handle during the summer.
    ''They are grazing on the tun*dra, and the tundra grass is becom*ing denuded. ... They are ripping up the grass by its roots, impacting the habitat for hundreds of other types of birds, as well as them*selves," Nichols said.
    The geese are leaving what sci*entists call massive "eatouts," or large, bare swaths of land that may never recover. Because some of the rarest migrating shorebirds also rely on that ecologically fragile Arc*tic tundra for summer breeding, the snow geese are under fire -- lit*erally and figuratively -- through*out North America.
    Over the years, federal officials had increased hunting limits on the birds for the regular September to March waterfowl seasons, but their numbers still grew. By 1999, the federal Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act was signed, with the first federal order for a special spring hunt in the Mississippi and Central flyways -- the mid-North American migration routes.
    ''It has been working, and now the goal is to bring down popula*tions in the Atlantic Flyway," said Chris Dwyer, a migratory bird biol*ogist with the U.S. Fish and Wild*life Service.
    Matt Rainey/The Star-Ledger
    Unfortunately, there is a culi*nary impediment.
    ''The problem with snow geese is, they are simply not that palata*ble, so a lot of guys don't go out for them," said Edward J. Markowski of the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. "We have a policy in the clubs I hunt with about eating what we hunt. If we don't eat it, we don't shoot it."
    Dry. Tough. Like chewing on a catcher's mitt. The insults hurled at snow geese meat are many and biologists are so worried about hunters staying home that New Jersey has referred sportsmen to a 40-page, snow geese cookbook that can be found on the Arctic Goose Joint Venture website.
    ''We need people to participate. We don't want people wasting any*thing, and certainly wouldn't ask them not to eat what they hunt. But many people do eat snow geese," said federal biologist Dwyer.
    While used collectively, the term "snow geese" actually refers to three distinct birds -- lesser snow geese, greater snow geese and Ross's geese. New Jersey sees mostly greater snow geese, which
    about 1 million in North America, said Nichols. Hunters, however, need not worry about the distinction.
    All are overabundant, Dwyer said, and all are now fair game to bag.
    Which is just fine for Tori Mc*Cormick of Delta Waterfowl, a 45,000-member conservation group based in Canada and North Da*kota. He calls snow geese "the Rodney Dangerfield" of winged prey and blames the "lack of respect" on internet forum posts from hunters unfamiliar with the bird.
    Delta has responded with coun*terpoints and recipes on its web*site,
    Wild bird connoisseurs often prefer younger snow geese, McCor*mick said, but even a large, 30-year-old "honker" can be properly prepared for the most discerning of palates.
    ''Not only are they good to eat, they are fabulous to eat," he said.
    ''I will take a snow goose any day over Canada geese as table fare," added Bob Olson, president of Delta Waterfowl. "A snow goose breast marinated and grilled me*dium rare is simply outstanding, and I can guarantee you that most hunters who say that snows are bad eating simply have never tried it done right."

  2. #2
    If only a few would migrate thru our area, I'd be glad to mow a few down

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