PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Outdoors

December 12, 2009

Texas snow goose numbers continue decline

Chester Moore, Jr column for Sunday, Dec 13

(This is the conclusion of a two-part series on the decline of snow geese.)

 

     Outfitter William Sherrill is not a fan of the special conservation order and puts a strict limit on the number of geese his parties can take.

    If there has ever been a waterfowl guru out there, Sherrill is it. I have had the pleasure of hunting with him several times and am blown away by the habitat management on the property he hunts and his focus on small details.

    “There is a such thing as putting too much pressure on the birds and with geese it seems like that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

In 1999 when the special conservation order was put in place Texas hunters took around 370,000 light geese. The next year the harvest only slipped a bit but by the 2007-2008 season it had dropped to around 250,000 birds. The difference is in the number of geese wintering in Texas, which was a big topic of conversation at last March’s Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Commission hearing.

Speaking to Commissioners, TPWD Migratory Bird Program leader Dave Morrison used Kansas as an example of how snow geese are changing their patterns.

     “…They had 350- to 400,000 birds in their state, they killed 15,000. They're not putting pressure on their birds like we do. We have a mid-winter estimate of around 350-, 400,000 year before last, and we shot about 250,000 birds.”

Think about that for a second. Texas hunters shot more than half of the light geese that wintered in Texas. And according to Morrisson’s testimony there is a direct correlation between the number of pressure here and wintering bird numbers and the lack of pressure elsewhere.

     “Now that's a direct relationship — I understand, that's just the indices compared to population estimates. But the decline, you can see the decline, what's going on. Now, understand that the intent was to cause birds to go down. That was the intent of the expanded and liberal seasons. But the continental population has not gone down. It's simply a Texas problem.”

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