By Bill Monroe
The Catch 22 for Northwest Oregon goose hunters is 2,700.
That figure may not seem significant overlaying a total population average of 230,000 cackling geese wintering mostly in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s important enough to warrant a little restraint, please.
It’s the number of yellow (and some blue) neck collars placed on the diminutive Arctic/Alaska-nesting geese to track their movements and estimate their total population.
In years past, a handful of hunters have targeted geese wearing the collars, treating them as trophy birds. That potentially skews data from the ratios scientists use to track and estimate numbers. In addition to the additional expense of sending teams out in early spring and summer to replace the neckbands, it may delay expanded hunting.
State and federal biologists in Alaska, Washington and Oregon believe there may be more than the 230,000 birds they estimate as the three-year running average. The goal for cacklers is 250,000. If collar sightings (each is numbered) prove bird numbers are above that figure, hunting expansions are back on the table.
But they need those collars to remain on live birds.
“There is a group (of hunters) who don’t want to listen to the message,” said Brandon Rheishus, chief waterfowl biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We have issues with it every season.”
There’s nothing illegal or even wrong with inadvertently taking a yellow or blue collared goose. It happens, and biologists factor routine hunting mortalities into their equations. But please; if you see a collar, leave it on the goose’s neck.
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