With a record number of ducks counted on the breeding grounds this year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved migratory waterfowl hunting seasons for this fall and winter during a public meeting in Olympia Aug. 3-4.
Under the waterfowl hunting package, most hunting opportunities in Washington will be similar to last year. That includes a statewide duck season that will be open for 107 days, starting Oct. 13-17 and continuing Oct. 20-Jan. 27. A special youth hunting weekend also is scheduled for Sept. 22-23.
Special limits for hen mallard, pintail, redhead, canvasback, goldeneye, harlequin, scoter and long-tailed duck will remain the same as last season. But the commission removed bag limits and an early season closure for scaup, which have significantly increased in numbers throughout North America, including Washington.
Goose hunting seasons will vary by management areas across the state, but most open Oct. 13 and run through Jan. 27, 2013.
The goose and duck hunting seasons approved by the commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), are based on state and federal waterfowl population estimates and guidelines. According to those estimates, a record number of ducks, approximately 48.6 million, were on the breeding grounds in Canada and the United States this spring.
Details on the waterfowl hunting seasons will be available later this week on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
In other action, the commission approved a $10 penalty for failing to report the harvest of several specific waterfowl species. Hunters who fail to report their harvest of brant, sea ducks in western Washington and snow goose in Goose Management Area 1 will face a $10 fine that will be imposed when they apply for a 2013 special migratory bird hunting authorization.
The $10 penalty is designed to increase the number of reports the department receives each year. Those reports help WDFW estimate harvest and properly manage each species.
The commission also amended the boundary of the Toppenish Creek Game Reserve. The change removes the western portion – known as Toppenish Creek Game Reserve #2 – from the reserve to allow upland bird hunting on 160 acres of the 1,000-acre area.
The other 840 acres, which are within the boundary of the Yakama Nation reservation, will remain in reserve status under regulations established by the tribe and hunting will continue to be prohibited.
Established in 1960, the Toppenish Creek Game Reserve was created to improve waterfowl distribution during the winter in the Yakima Valley. Since then, however, the number of waterfowl that use the western portion of the reserve has declined significantly because of the loss of quality wetlands due to habitat changes in the area.
In other business, the commission approved several land transactions, including the purchase of property along the Methow River – four miles west of Pateros – to develop a fishing access site. Other transactions approved by the commission include the purchase of an easement in Skagit County, and two land purchases to protect fish and wildlife habitat in Okanogan County.
The commission also received briefings on the department’s proposed 2013-2015 operating and capital budget requests, and WDFW’s legislative proposals for 2013. Other briefings included the Lower Columbia River estuary and habitat restoration efforts in that area; auction, raffle and special incentive hunting permits; the schedule and process for updating the Puget Sound shrimp policy; fisheries enforcement on the upper Columbia River; and a scientific review of southern resident killer whales.