Maryland's Department of Natural Resources proposes to reopen hunting for migratory Canada geese on the Eastern Shore this winter for the first time since a moratorium shut it down in 1995. The initial season would be short and tightly controlled--six days, with a total of 12,200 permits issued for gunners to take one bird.
The proposal calls for a season in eastern portions of the state Jan. 6-8 and Jan. 14-17. Hunters would be required to apply for a permit and those chosen would receive tags to affix to each bird immediately after it was downed. A public hearing on the proposal, along with other proposed 1999-2000 waterfowl regulations, is scheduled for Aug. 23 at Easton High School, beginning at 7 p.m.
Hunting for migratory Canada geese was closed across the Atlantic flyway after populations plummeted in the early 1990s. Wildlife managers blamed overhunting and poor nesting conditions in the Hudson Bay area, where migrants return each spring. The decline was accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of year-round resident Canada geese in Maryland. As a result, hunting seasons in western portions of the state for resident birds have been expanded.
But goose hunting in Maryland historically meant pursuing migratory Canadas on the Eastern Shore, which 20 years ago was known as "Goose Capital of the World." At its height, the hunting season stretched 90 days with a three-bird daily limit and gunners flew in from as far away as Europe to partake.
Hunting was closed after the nesting population around Hudson Bay dropped to 29,000 pairs in 1995. But flyway representatives who monitor that area say the total rallied to 77,000 pairs this spring and the last three years have shown good production of young. On the Eastern Shore, flocks of migrants have grown steadily to the point wildlife experts think a hunting season is again appropriate.
Maryland officials also propose to raise the daily bag limit for ducks this year from four birds to five, citing excellent nesting conditions on the prairies and a predicted record fall flight of 104 million birds.
Maryland's Waterfowl Proposals
* Ducks: Sept. 11-21, special season (teal only); regular season Oct. 9-16, Nov. 5-26, Dec. 13-Jan. 20.
* Sea ducks: Oct. 2-Jan. 20.
* Resident Canada geese: Sept. 1-15 (eastern zone); Sept. 1-25, Nov. 15-26, Dec. 8-Jan. 5, Jan. 10-13, Jan. 18-Feb. 15 (western zone).
* Migratory Canada geese: Jan. 6-8, Jan. 14-17 (eastern zone).
* Snow geese: Oct. 16-Nov. 26; Dec. 7-Feb. 26.