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Hunters about to find out if new bird regulations are going to fly.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Big day for bird hunters, Friday is. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will take action on several game bird-related issues during a meeting at ODFW headquarters in Salem.

In addition to setting this fall's waterfowl and upland game bird hunting seasons - which will include several changes and additions - the commission will take action on two game bird "species of concern," the Aleutian Canada goose and the sage grouse.

The Aleutian Canada goose is slated to be removed from the state Threatened and Endangered Species List, thus opening the door to the hunting of these critters for the first time in almost 40 years.

The Aleutian Canada goose is a small subspecies of Canada goose whose numbers declined after fur traders introduced foxes to the islands on which the birds nest. Since being protected, Aleutian goose populations have rebounded nicely. In April 2002, more than 40,000 Aleutians were estimated to be in the Langlois area, where they've become a nuisance to farmers.

The bird was taken off the federal Endangered Species List in 2001, but has remained state-protected. The state delisting will allow the lands west of Highway 101 to be reopened to waterfowl hunting, which should discourage the geese from lingering in Oregon during their migrations.

The 2005 hunt regulations will allow Aleutians to be included in the dark goose bag limit throughout the Southwest General Zone, although most of the additional hunting opportunity provided will be in western Coos and Curry counties.

The Aleutian goose becomes the second animal to be removed from Oregon's endangered species list. First was the Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County.

Meanwhile, the sage grouse story is all about making sure that species stays off the "endangered" list. The commission is expected to approve administrative rules for a "Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy" designed to do just that.

The sage grouse is a reclusive bird that lives in the sagebrush country of Eastern Oregon. Most Oregonians will never see one of the mottled-brown birds with black and white camouflage. In the 1800s, an estimated 1.1 million sage grouse inhabited the western United States and Canada. In 1998, the rangewide population estimate for sage grouse was down to 157,000

The rules to be adopted Friday set population and habitat management objectives that call for maintaining Oregon's population at the current level of about 40,000 birds.

Sage grouse management is expected to continue to include a limited amount of hunting on a "controlled hunt" basis. Last year, 1,228 sage grouse were harvested.

As for this fall's hunts, biologists are recommending changes for several species. They include:

Wild turkeys: 1) Extend the fall turkey season by one month (Oct. 15-Dec. 31); 2) establish a new "emergency hunt" procedure to deal with damage-causing wild turkeys; 3) add a new youth spring hunt in 2006.

Forest grouse: Allow hunters to take these birds with any rimfire firearm. Currently, a shotgun is required.

Pheasant: expand the Fern Ridge Fee Pheasant Hunt for 2005.

Band-tailed pigeons and sea ducks: a permit will be required for each.

Ducks: While the general duck hunting season is again expected to be a full 107 days (with the state again split into two zones) there will be a 60-day subseason on canvasbacks.

Zone 1 (Western Oregon and the eastside counties along the Columbia River) will be open Oct. 15-Oct. 30 and Nov. 2-Jan. 29, 2006. Canvasbacks may be taken Oct. 15-23 and Dec. 10-Jan. 29.

Zone 2 (the balance of the state) will see general duck season open Oct. 8-Dec. 6 and Dec. 9-Jan. 22, 2006. Canvasback hunting will be allowed Oct. 8-Dec. 6.

The statewide duck bag limit is seven ducks, but within that limit hunters may not have more than two hen mallards, one pintail, one canvasback, two redheads and three scaup.

Geese: Several changes are in store in Northwest Oregon, where additional steps are being taken to protect the dusky Canada goose subspecies.

Beginning in the fall of 2006, all goose hunters in Northwest Oregon will be required to pass the Northwest Goose ID test - whether they are hunting within the Permit Goose Zone or outside those boundaries in the General Zone. This fall, all hunters will be encouraged to voluntarily take the Permit Goose Test to become more familiar with goose identification.

The September Canada Goose season will be Sept. 10-20 in Northwest Oregon and Sept. 10-15 in the remainder of the state. The Northwest General Zone goose season will be open Oct. 15-30 and Nov. 11-Jan. 29, 2006.

One white goose is being added to the daily bag limit statewide during the general fall season, bringing the total limit to four dark geese and four white.

Once the commission approves the changes, the 2005-06 game bird regulations booklet will be sent to the printer and copies will be available at sporting goods stores in short order.

Finally, it's become obvious that hunting alone is no longer enough to keep bird populations in check. That's especially true with "resident" (non-migratory) geese.

So biologists are experimenting with "birth control" for geese. According to The Associated Press, research by the National Wildlife Research Center found that bait laced with a contraceptive shows promise as a method of population management for Canada geese that are making a nuisance of themselves at parks and golf courses, and on agricultural lands.

The bait, manufactured by California-based Innolytics LLC and marketed under the name OvoControl G, was tested in Oregon last year.

The study ran from February through the end of May at 10 sites, half of which were supplied with treated bait, the other half with a placebo.

``We achieved a 51 percent reduction in hatchability of eggs in treated sites versus control sites,'' said Kimberly Bynum of the National Wildlife Research Center. ``It was definitely a success.''

Environmental Protection Agency approval for the bait is expected by the end of the year, said Innolytic's CEO, Erick Wolf. A previous avian birth-control compound, Ornitrol, was pulled from the market in 1994 because it had adverse effects on non-target species, Wolf said, but the the active ingredient in OvoControl G (Nicarbazin) does not build up in the bodily tissue of birds.

Also, since Canada geese breed earlier than most other birds, other species who eat treated bait should not be affected, he said.

While birth control could help reduce the size of future populations, it would be a slow process. Canada geese have a life span of about 20 years.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 4, 2005
Words:1096
Previous Article:BRIEFLY.
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