HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are set to offer hunters the opportunity to participate in a snow goose conservation hunt designed to help stem the growth of continental snow goose populations. Hunters must obtain a free snow goose conservation hunt permit and report cards from the agency to participate in the season .

The Snow Goose Conservation Hunt dates are from Jan. 26 through April 27 in the Atlantic Population and the Southern James Bay Population goose zones, and Feb. 27 through April 27 in the Resident Population Goose Zone. The daily limit is 25, with no possession limit.

To do so, hunters can access the "Snow Goose Conservation Hunt" page by clicking on the appropriate icon in the center of the agency''s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and then following the instructions. By completing the application online, hunters will be able to print off the permit and report cards and will not have to wait for the package to be mailed.

For those individuals with no online access, permits and the required report cards can be obtained by calling the Game Commission at the Harrisburg headquarters (717-787-4250) and asking for the Bureau of Wildlife Management. However, this process will require mailing the permit and report cards to the applicant, so allow a minimum of one week for processing and mail delivery to obtain a permit.

"Snow goose populations have reached levels that are causing extensive and possibly irreversible damage to their, as well as other nesting birds'', arctic and sub-arctic breeding grounds," pointed out Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist. "For some populations of snow geese their nesting habitats can no longer support these large numbers. What''s more, these geese are beginning to impact fragile coastal marsh habitats and crops in Mid-Atlantic States and Quebec.

"It''s likely that North America has never had as many snow geese as it does now. The current population of greater snow geese that inhabits the Atlantic Flyway is estimated at more than one million birds, more than double the management goal of 500,000. They have become a huge and unexpected problem for themselves and other wildlife that shares the wintering and breeding grounds these waterfowl occupy."

The quickest and probably most effective way for wildlife managers to respond to the problem is to allow additional hunting days – and new hunting methods – to reduce and stabilize snow goose populations. Therefore, as part of this Snow Goose Conservation Hunt, electronic calls and decoys are legal, and legal shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. Currently, all waterfowl shooting hours close at sundown, except for the September Canada goose season, and electronic calls are not legal for other waterfowl seasons.

Currently, the regular snow goose season, with a daily bag limit of 25 snow geese, opened on Oct. 25 and runs through Jan. 25 in the Atlantic Population and Southern James Bay Population goose zones, and until Feb. 25 in the Resident Population Goose Zone.

Participating states are required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor and assess hunting activity and harvest. That is why the Game Commission has created the free Snow Goose Conservation Hunt Permit.

"Along with this new permit, hunters must possess a general hunting license, migratory game bird license and a federal duck stamp (for those 16 or older)," Jacobs said. "The permit holder will be required to maintain records specifying hunting activity and daily harvest. All permit holders must submit a report, even if they did not hunt or harvest any birds, to the Game Commission no later than May 28. Failure to report by May 28 may result in loss of eligibility to participate in next year''s snow goose conservation hunt."

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