Because snow geese are migratory game birds, the federal governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, under the authorities of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, are ultimately responsible for their protection and conservation in North America. In the United States, this responsibility has largely been delegated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Pacific Flyway Council cooperates with the USFWS to develop regulations for migratory birds in the United States west of the Continental Divide. Both organizations consider the welfare of migratory bird populations first, and then public demands for recreation and subsistence harvest, and other uses.
The USFWS sets migratory game bird hunting regulations by establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting. The total length of the light (Snow and Ross’s) goose season cannot exceed 107 days. The existing framework established by the USFWS currently allows for light goose hunting until 10 March in the Pacific Flyway; therefore, the March 10 closure is the latest date allowed as per the Federal Framework. Furthermore, the most recent (2013) Pacific Flyway Management Plan for Western Arctic Population Lesser Snow Geese states the following:
“Seek an overabundant designation for WAP lesser snow geese and implementation of Conservation Order seasons in Canada and the United States, or implementation of direct control on the primary breeding colony on Banks Island if the 2013 photo inventory indicates population growth.”
The 2013 Banks Island photo inventory did NOT indicate population growth. As a result, an “overabundant” designation has not been sought in the Pacific Flyway to date. However, a banding program was initiated on Banks Island during July 2015 and has been funded through 2019. Results from this work will help to better inform light goose management in the Pacific Flyway in the future.
It is important to note that snow goose seasons in the Pacific Flyway are not similar to the “Conservation" seasons in the Midwest. Snow geese in the Central and Mississippi flyways are from the Mid-continent breeding population, and have been designated as “overabundant” due to extensive damage to their arctic tundra breeding grounds.
In an effort to provide hunting opportunity for snow geese in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will continue to recommend a light goose season that closes as late as possible under the Federal Framework.