The 2018-19 hunting season dates will remain as published in the Maryland Guide to Hunting and Trapping. All 2018-19 migratory game bird seasons and bag limits went through the annual public review and comment period in February and March 2018. These public comments were used to finalize the season selections which were then forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS then reviews the seasons and finalizes them by publication in the Federal Register.
The USFWS uses an AP Canada goose harvest strategy, developed by the Atlantic Flyway Council, to set season and bag limits for the flyway states. This harvest strategy utilizes a 3-year average of the estimated number of breeding pairs of geese to determine the hunting season recommendation. Breeding pair estimates are calculated from the results of aerial surveys that are flown every June throughout the primary nesting grounds along the Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay coasts of northern Quebec, Canada. After a long (15 year) period of relative stability and “moderate” hunt packages, the breeding pair estimates have declined in recent years resulting in a “restrictive” hunt package recommendation for the 2019-20 season. Please click HERE for a summary of the AP Canada Goose population’s status.
A restrictive hunt package means that Maryland can have a 30 day season with a daily bag limit of one Canada goose in the AP Hunting Zone. The season can be divided into no more than two segments and must be held between November 15 and February 5. The department's annual public review process will be used to determine where hunters would like to see the 30 hunting days positioned for the 2019-20 hunting season. The September resident Canada goose season and the late resident goose season will remain unchanged.
While the 3-year breeding pair average (155,000) was slightly above the Harvest Plan threshold for a restrictive season (150,000), a strong downward trend in the number of breeding pairs coupled with extremely poor reproduction in summer 2018 (due to a very late spring thaw) caused Atlantic Flyway biologists and Council to preemptively recommend a restrictive hunting season for 2019-20. It is worth noting that in seven out of the last ten years, AP Canada goose reproduction has been below average. While this below average reproduction is due to late spring thaws on the nesting grounds, a restrictive hunting season protects breeding adults that are key to population recovery.
The AP Canada Goose Harvest Strategy used by the USFWS to set season and bag limit frameworks applies to all Atlantic Flyway states that have AP Canada Goose hunting zones. There are four regions [New England (VT, CT, MA), Mid-Atlantic (NY, PA, NJ), Chesapeake (MD, DE, VA), and North Carolina] specified in the Harvest Strategy. Under the restrictive package the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regions will have a 30-day season with a daily bag limit of two birds. The Chesapeake region will have a 30-day season with a daily bag limit of one bird. North Carolina’s season will remain unchanged as they generally implement a more restrictive season (15 days/1 bird).
By preemptively moving to a restrictive season Atlantic Flyway and USFWS biologists hope to reduce the amount of time spent in a restrictive harvest package. However, recovery of the number of breeding pairs to a level capable of sustaining moderate harvest will depend on favorable weather conditions for nesting and subsequent growth of the population.
Seasons and bag limits use the best scientific information available to accomplish the goal of long term conservation of the species in question. Hunters who wish to do more can always voluntarily restrict their own harvest. Habitat based management practices such as leaving standing row crops in the field, planting cover crops, and limiting disturbance to roost areas will help ensure that wintering
geese leave Maryland in the best possible physical condition. Energy reserves acquired during the winter will help these geese arrive on the nesting grounds in prime condition and ensure they are ready to begin nesting as soon as weather conditions permit.
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