What are light geese? They are snow geese that come in two color phases, a snow and a blue. There is also Ross Geese. It is a separate species but looks like a pint-sized version of a snow goose. They do come in a blue phase, but it is rare. Most biologists say a blue phase Ross happens when a blue phase Snow Goose and a Ross crossbreed. Now that we know what is covered under the Light Goose Conservation Order (commonly called the Spring Snow Goose Season) let’s look at why it was started and what are the more liberal laws that govern it.
The snow goose population has increased by more than 300% since the 1970’s. This increase exceeds that carrying capacity of their nesting grounds. They nest in the tundra, which has a very short growing season. Colonies of nesting snow geese number in the millions of birds. They eat the native vegetation down to the dirt. Because of the short growing season, the tundra has a hard time rebounding from the overgrazing. Snow geese are very adaptive and are expanding into areas that didn’t traditionally have snow geese. This is putting pressure on nesting habitat for other species of ducks, geese, and shorebirds.
Light geese are a nuisance to farmers. In Canada, entire fields of wheat, barley, and peas can be devastated when large flocks of snow geese start feeding in those fields. In the southern U.S. crops like winter wheat are ripped out by the root killing the plant and the farmer’s yield. Snow geese feed in large flocks with 10,000-50,000 birds common. That many birds can cause a lot of crop damage in a short period of time.
What to do? Wildlife officials could conduct mass eradication efforts to try to balance the population, but that is a last-ditch option. Increasing hunting opportunity is the first and best tool for wildlife biologists. We are all aware of government inefficiencies. Everything takes too long and cost too much. The costs of an increased hunting season are very small to taxpayers and have created welcomed revenue to some small midwestern towns that are frequented by snow geese on their northbound migration. Thousands of hunters from all over the world travel to these areas to hunt snow geese.
Because of the need to harvest more light geese each year many of the regular waterfowl season regulations have been relaxed.
- Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.
- No limits on daily bag or possession by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. States can be more restrictive so there may be a state or two that still have a limit. Most that had them have now dropped the limit but check the regulations in the state you are hunting to be sure.
- Unplugged guns are legal.
- Electronic callers are legal. Snow geese became very difficult to hunt blowing only a mouth call. Electronic callers have really increased hunter’s success.
- No federal duck stamp required by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. However, licensing is a state by state requirement. It varies widely. Some states require all the licenses needed in the fall (including the Federal Duck Stamp) to no license requirement at all.
- Wanton Waste laws still apply. This means it is illegal to waste the part of the animal that is customarily processed for consumption.