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September 5, 2000

For more information contact:
Paul Castelli at 609-748-2047

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife today announced 2000-01 migratory bird hunting season regulations.

"With most duck populations near or above their long-term averages, Garden State hunters will enjoy a fourth consecutive year of liberal duck hunting seasons," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Sportsmen who are willing to travel will be able to hunt ducks in at least one of New Jersey's three waterfowl zones from October 7 to January 20."

"Habitat conditions from the traditional survey areas of mid-continent North America, which are critical to the reproductive success of waterfowl, declined 41 percent from 1999 levels, to a level 20 percent below the long-term (1974-99) average," said Paul Castelli, principal wildlife biologist and leader of the Division's Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program. "However, habitat conditions in eastern North America, where most Atlantic Flyway ducks are derived, were good to excellent in most areas. Although this year's fall flight will consist of 90 million ducks, healthy waterfowl populations don't necessarily guarantee excellent hunting. Many variables, including weather and local habitat conditions, often have a greater influence on waterfowl distribution than the size of a given year's fall flight."

The daily bag limit in New Jersey will be six ducks and may not include more than four mallards (including no more than two hens), four bufflehead, four scoters, three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one pintail, one canvasback and one black duck. Black ducks will be legal for the duration of the duck season in all zones.

A total of 93,230 breeding pairs of Atlantic Population or "migrant" Canada geese were estimated from surveys during June 2000 in northern Quebec. This population has rebounded substantially from the low of 29,000 breeding pairs estimated in 1995, but still remains below the population objective of 150,000 pairs. Overall, nesting conditions for migrant Canada geese were fair to poor due to later than average snow thaw on the Ungava Peninsula. Along the Hudson Bay coast, snowmelt was particularly late and recruitment is expected to be poor. Further east, near Ungava Bay, conditions were fair. Due to the expected below average production, a limited regular season of 15 days with a one-goose bag limit will remain in effect for 2000. This season format will allow some harvest on migrant geese yet the harvest should be small enough to allow the population to continue growing despite the below average production forecast.

Additionally in New Jersey, the 2000 September Canada Goose Season will be held from September 1-30, again on a statewide basis. The Special Winter Canada Goose Season will be held January 15 to February 15, 2001. The southern hunt area boundaries for the Special Winter Canada Goose Season were expanded to include the Maurice River and key cranberry production areas in the Pinelands; the northern hunt area boundaries remain the same as last year. Bag limits during both the September and Special Winter seasons will be five Canada geese per day. Both seasons are targeted at resident geese that now number over 1 million birds in the Atlantic Flyway. There will be no special permit requirements for sportsmen and women to participate in these seasons.

The Atlantic brant population was near average based on winter counts in January 2000. Breeding conditions for arctic nesting Atlantic brant were fair due to later than average snowmelt. As a result, the brant season will remain at 50 days with a two brant per day bag limit.

Snow goose numbers remain at exceptionally high levels. As a result, biologists continue to be concerned about potential impacts the birds may have on fragile arctic nesting habitats. Serious damage to arctic wetlands has already been documented in several key snow goose breeding colonies. This damage impacts the snow geese themselves as well as other arctic wildlife. The season length for snow geese is already 107 days, the longest allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty. Bag limits will remain liberal this year with 15 snow geese per day and no possession limit. In addition, the Coastal Zone will see multiple splits in the snow goose season. In the Coastal Zone, hunting will be allowed Monday through Saturday from October 5 through January 20 and then on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from January 22 through February 15.

"Breeding conditions for snow geese are expected to be poor resulting in a fall flight comprised of relatively few juveniles," said Paul Castelli. "As a result, hunters may have a difficult time decoying flocks that will contain mostly adult birds."

All migratory bird hunters are reminded that they must obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number before hunting ducks, geese, brant, woodcock, rails, snipe, coots or gallinules in New Jersey. Hunters can get their HIP numbers simply by calling 1-800-WETLAND or by registering on-line.

The phone call and HIP number are free. In addition, this system is operational 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Hunters must have their hunting license ready when calling for their HIP number. After calling, the HIP number should be written in the space provided on the front of the hunting license. The HIP number is valid from September 1, 2000 until March 10, 2001. The information provided by sportsmen and women is confidential and will only be used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for conducting harvest surveys to better manage migratory game bird populations.

Click for the 2000-01 migratory bird hunting season dates. Although they are not expected to change, these dates are tentative until approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in mid-September. The 2000-01 Migratory Bird Regulations will be available at Division offices, license agents and sporting goods stores statewide in September and on-line in PDF format.