The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is planning a light-goose hunt this spring.
It would be Utah's first spring light-goose hunt and would provide hunters with a unique opportunity. It would also help light-goose populations (snow, blue and Ross' geese) and reduce damage to grain and alfalfa crops in Utah.
The DWR and Utah's Regional Advisory Councils would like public input on the proposal.
All of the DWR's waterfowl hunting proposals are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.
Hunters can share their ideas at one of the five Regional Advisory Council meetings that will be held across Utah.
The Southern and Southeastern Region meetings were held earlier this week. Remaining meetings will be:
• Aug. 12 Southern Region meeting at 7 p.m. at Millard High School, 200 W. Eagle Ave. in Fillmore.
• Aug. 13 Southeastern Region meeting at 6:30 p.m. at John Wesley Powell Museum, 1765 E. Main St. in Green River.
• Today Northeastern Region meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Uintah Interagency Fire Center, 355 N. Vernal Ave. in Vernal.
• Aug. 19 Central Region meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Springville Junior High School, 165 S. 700 East in Springville.
• Aug. 20 Northern Region meeting at 6 p.m. at the Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West in Brigham City.
Hunters can also provide comments to the RAC via e-mail: www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.
If approved by the board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the light-goose hunt would run from Oct. 16 to Jan. 17, and from March 2 to March 10, across most of Utah.
One exception would be the North Goose Zone. In the zone, the hunt would run from Oct. 25 to Jan. 17, and Feb. 18 to March 10.
"We don't see many light geese in the fall, but in the spring, more than 50,000 light geese most of them snow and Ross' geese stop over in Utah," said Tom Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR.
"In addition to providing hunters with a unique opportunity, hunting light geese in the spring would reduce the agricultural damage the geese are doing," he said. "Most of the damage is happening in Box Elder and Millard counties, where the geese are eating grain and alfalfa that's just starting to grow."
In addition to allowing light-goose hunting in the early spring, the DWR is proposing an increase in the light-goose bag and possession limits. Hunters could take up to 10 light geese a day. The number of light geese you could have in your possession at home would be limited to 20.
Currently, hunters can't take more than four light geese a day. And they can't have more than eight light geese in your their possession.
Very few light geese use state waterfowl management areas or federal refuges in Utah. Some light geese do visit the Salt Creek, Public Shooting Grounds and Clear Lake waterfowl management areas in the spring, and those areas would be open to light-goose hunting in February and March.
The remaining waterfowl management areas in Utah Brown's Park, Desert Lake, Farmington Bay, Harold Crane, Howard Slough, Locomotive Springs and Ogden Bay would be closed to light-goose hunting in February and March.
It's likely that the three federal refuges in Utah Bear River, Fish Springs and Ouray would also be closed to light-goose hunting in February and March.
"Most of the light geese are on the private land where the agricultural damage is occurring," Aldrich said. "That's where they feed and rest.
"We have a Walk-In Access program in northern Utah that provides hunters access to private land. We'll continue to work with landowners in Box Elder County to see if we can get more of them enrolled in the program. If we can, that will allow hunters access to their lands."
In addition to helping Utah's farmers, the light-goose hunt would also help the geese.
In the central part of North America, light-goose populations have gotten so large that they're damaging the areas in Canada where they nest and raise their young.
"The population in the western part of North America hasn't become overabundant yet, but it's growing," Aldrich said. "In December 2007, for example, the population exceeded one 1 million birds.
"We want to help stabilize the population before it becomes overabundant. Once the geese become overabundant, it's hard to bring them back."
The early hunt would not affect the state's dark-goose season.
For more information about the meetings, call the nearest DWR office or the Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.