Alberta’s snow goose hunting season is coming early this year.
The Government of Alberta is issuing its first ever spring snow goose hunt. According to Environment Canada, the snow goose population has grown from 3,000 birds a century ago to over one million birds today, which is twice the number their habitat can support. Snow goose overgrazing can result in irreparable damage to the soil and vegetation they rely on. The province is responding by permitting hunters to shoot up 50 of the geese each day.
“There are a lot of fellows that would go out and make use of the opportunity … and enjoy the sport of hunting in the spring,” said Eugene “Curly” Hallan, who serves as a director for the Lloydminster Fish and Game Association.
Hallan says it is common for culls to be announced when animal populations reach the point where they are damaging their environment. He says it happens across Alberta.
“This year they have an extended draw for quite a few extra elk. They’re doing extensive damage down in the Suffield bombing range (at CFB Suffield near Medicine Hat,)” he said.
“And I understand there’s a special buffalo season coming up in spring for controlling the buffalo population in the Fort McMurray area.”
Hallan said that due to their size, snow geese are mostly hunted for sport.
“They are eaten but they aren’t a delicacy. There’s minimal meat on them but they are eaten,” he said. “There’s no real salvation for them at all. I guess in cases you might have a situation where someone might use some of the down from the goose for quilting, but that’s not a major use or reason for shooting the snow goose.”
Hallan said that governmentsponsored culls are common around the world.
He gives the example of the New Zealand government’s efforts to control the population of tahr, a type of mountain goat that lives in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
“In June, I went down to New Zealand on a hunting safari where we were up in the Alps shooting tahr,” he said. “(The hunt) started in New Zealand in 1904 and right now they’re at a predator situation where when their tahr counts get out of line they send military in with helicopters and reduce the population of tahr. Because of their overabundance they’re damaging the flora and fauna.”
Hallan said that while animal rights groups may be in opposition to the cull, hunting plays an important role in maintaining manageable animal populations.
“It goes hand-in-hand with government conservation and trying to balance the number of animals or birds with respect to the hunting season that they regularly have,” he said