Birders flock to resist snow goose hunt plan in Pacific Flyway

Avian advocates in the U.S. are calling out in distress about a plan to open the Pacific Flyway to a hunting season for snow geese

Avian advocates in the U.S. are calling out in distress about a plan to open the Pacific Flyway to a hunting season for snow geese.

Opposition at a Wyoming Game and Fish Department meeting last week was carried by worries about trumpeter swans being mistakenly shot, and also the rarity of snow geese in the region. One birder endured a two-hour meeting to protest why more snow geese (10) could be killed in a day than ubiquitous Canada geese (four).

“We have lots of Canada geese around here,” Frances Clark said. “In the seven years I’ve been here, twice I’ve seen snow geese.

Game and Fish Migratory Game Bird Biologist Nate Huck said he’s unsure of snow goose population estimates in waterfowl flyways west of the Continental Divide, but observations have increased and his aim is to provide hunter opportunity.

As proposed, Game and Fish would allow snow goose hunting from Sept. 23 to Dec. 28.

The season would be identical to the hunt in the Central Flyway, where there is a larger snow goose migration.

Given the public concern, wardens Kyle Lash and Jon Stephens vowed to come down hard on any waterfowl hunter who mistakenly guns down a swan.

One retired Game and Fish staffer, Joe Bohne, pointed out that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game prohibits snow goose hunting in two southeastern counties that harbor trumpeter swans.

Half a century ago trumpeters were nearly wiped out, but their numbers in the tri-state area, including Montana and Idaho, have since risen to about 500. Breeding programs have been established to bolster populations of the long-living, slow-reproducing bird, and Jackson Hole even has a nonprofit organization whose mission centers on restoring Rocky Mountain trumpeters.

Naturalist and News&Guide columnist Bert Raynes is another birder who voiced displeasure with the snow goose proposal. “Snow geese move through and along the corridor in small numbers irregularly in the fall,” Raynes wrote. “An observer or hunter could have difficulty distinguishing a snow goose from a trumpeter swan, a tundra swan or indeed other bird species which are large in size or light-colored.

“Therefore,” he said, “I cannot recommend and am emphatically against establishing an open season on the taking of snow, Ross’ and white-fronted geese in the the Pacific Flyway.”

– files from the Facebook Trumpeter Swan Society.