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August 22, 2002


For more information contact:
Al Ivany at 609-984-1795

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife today announced 2002-03 migratory bird hunting season regulations.

"With most duck populations near their long-term averages, Garden State hunters will enjoy the sixth consecutive year with a liberal duck hunting season framework," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Sportsmen who are willing to travel will be able to hunt ducks in at least one of New Jersey's three waterfowl zones from October 12, 2002 until January 25, 2003. Some species, however, will have more restricted hunting opportunities due to concerns about population status and a poor production outlook from key nesting areas during 2002."

"Habitat conditions from the traditional survey areas of mid-continent North America, critical to the reproductive success of waterfowl, continue to show a drying pattern from the excellent conditions observed there in the late 1990s," said Paul Castelli, supervising wildlife biologist with the Division's Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program. "The number of ponds in the survey area declined 45 percent from the long-term (1974-2000) average. However, duck populations and habitat conditions in eastern North America, where most Atlantic Flyway ducks are derived, were good to excellent in most areas."

Although the population status of most species was near the long-term average, the populations of canvasbacks, pintails and scaup remain a concern to waterfowl managers. The canvasback population estimate declined to 14 percent (487,000 birds) below the long-term average. The canvasback season was closed throughout the United States due to the inherently small breeding population and a poor outlook for young production during 2002. Additionally, pintails and scaup were estimated at 58 percent and 34 percent, respectively, below their long-term averages. These estimates were the lowest and second lowest estimates on record for pintails and scaup. As a result, the pintail season was shortened throughout the United States. For scaup, smaller bag limits of three birds per day will remain in effect.

Each year, hunting regulations for migratory birds are developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) after input and consultation with the four Flyway Councils (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific). The Flyway Councils provide state wildlife agencies a formal mechanism to assist the Service with cooperative management of North America's migratory bird populations. Duck hunting regulations are based on biological assessments, primarily regarding mallards, conducted within a process known as Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM). AHM was developed by the Service and Flyway Councils and brings more scientific rigor and objectivity to the regulations-setting process. During 2002, the AHM process suggested that a liberal duck hunting season in all flyways was consistent with the long-term welfare of North American waterfowl populations.

The daily bag limit in New Jersey will be 6 ducks and may not include more than 4 mallards (including no more than 2 hens), 4 scoters, 3 scaup, 2 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail and 1 black duck. The canvasback season will be closed. The pintail season in New Jersey was reduced to 30 days in each zone at which time the bag limit will be 1 bird. The pintail season will be closed at all other times.

A total of 165,000 breeding pairs of Atlantic Population or "migrant" Canada geese were estimated from surveys during June 2002 on the Ungava peninsula of northern Quebec. This population has rebounded significantly from the low of 29,000 breeding pairs estimated in 1995 with an annual population increase of 13 percent per year since 1993. Nesting conditions for migrant Canada geese, however, were very poor. During surveys, a record low proportion of geese was observed as single birds, suggesting a poor nesting effort. Ground studies confirmed a poorer than average nesting effort with lower nest densities, smaller clutch sizes and lower nest success when compared with past years.

Due to the generally good status of migrant Canada geese, the regular season for Canada geese was liberalized slightly throughout the Atlantic Flyway. For 2002-03, a 45-day season with a 2-goose bag limit will be permitted in New Jersey. Additionally in New Jersey, the 2002 September Canada Goose Season will be held on a statewide basis from September 2-30. The Special Winter Canada Goose Season will be held January 20 to February 15, 2003, in two zones, with the same hunt area boundaries as last year. Bag limits during both the September and Special Winter seasons will be 5 Canada geese per day. Both seasons are targeted at resident geese that now number over one million birds in the Atlantic Flyway.

Since Atlantic brant breed in the remote wilderness of the Canadian arctic, their status is measured during January surveys on the wintering grounds. These surveys suggest that the Atlantic brant population has been increasing at a rate of 4 percent per year over the last ten years. In 2002, the Atlantic Flyway Council and the Service completed the Atlantic Brant Management Plan. Given the status of Atlantic brant in 2002, this plan recommends a 60-day season with a 3 brant per day bag limit. This scheme simplifies regulations for hunters since the Atlantic brant season will run concurrent with the duck season in all zones. (See our feature on the Brant Migration.)

Snow geese remain at exceptionally high levels. Biologists remain concerned about potential impacts snow geese may have on fragile arctic nesting habitats. Serious damage to arctic wetlands has already been documented in several key snow goose breeding colonies. This damage impacts the snow geese themselves as well as other wildlife dependent upon the arctic ecosystem. The season length for snow geese is already 107 days, the longest allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bag limits will remain liberal this year with 15 snow geese per day and no possession limit.

All migratory bird hunters are reminded that they must obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number before hunting ducks, geese, brant, woodcock, rails, snipe, coots or gallinules in New Jersey. Hunters can get their HIP number simply by calling 1-800-WETLAND or by registering on the Division's Website at:

The phone call and HIP number are free. In addition, this system is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hunters need to have their hunting license ready when calling for their HIP number. After calling, the HIP number should be written in the space provided on the front of the hunting license. The HIP number is valid from September 1, 2002 until March 10, 2003. The information provided by sportsmen and women is confidential and will only be used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for conducting migratory bird harvest surveys.

Additional information on the 2002 status of waterfowl and habitat conditions can be viewed on the Service's website at:

The 2002-03 New Jersey migratory bird hunting season dates follow. Although they are not expected to change, these dates are tentative until approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in mid-September. The 2002-03 Migratory Bird Regulations will be available at Division offices, license agents and sporting goods stores throughout the State in September.

2002-03 New Jersey Migratory Bird Hunting Season Dates