North

Sport hunters needed to keep N.W.T. snow geese in check: hunter

A hunter from Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., is calling on the government to cut the 50 geese bag limit, and open part of the Banks Island's protected migratory bird sanctuary to sport hunters to get the snow geese population under control.

Abolish geese bag limit, reduce the size of Banks Island's protected area, says Vernon Amos

Thousands of snow geese take flight over fields near La Conner, Wash., in March. Environment Canada will allow a snow goose hunt in the spring of 2015 in hopes of helping control their ballooning population at nesting grounds in the N.W.T. (Jordan Stead/Canadian Press)

A local hunter is calling on the government to make it easier to hunt Banks Island's teeming snow geese population, saying that current initiatives aren't doing enough to keep it in check.

"There are so many geese here on Banks Island, they are literally eating themselves out of house and home," said Vernon Amos, the former president of the Sachs Harbour Hunters and Trappers Association.

"The lower part of the sanctuary is teeming with geese. There are so many geese there, you can't even begin to count them all."

During the 2014/2015 hunting season, Environment Canada opened a spring snow geese hunt. That meant anyone with a migratory game bird hunting permit could hunt snow geese on Banks Island, Victoria Island and Queen Elizabeth Island from May 1 to June 30, and throughout the N.W.T. from May 1 to 28.

The new hunt was introduced because snow geese were classified as an over abundant species with its population ballooning to half a million — more than double the target population of 200,000. 

According to Amos, the government also needs to abolish a current 50 geese bag limit and reduce Banks Island's protected migratory bird sanctuary by 25 per cent in order to cull the population to a healthy level. 

The fall snow goose hunt will run as usual, from September to December.

More permits sold after spring hunt introduced

Environment Canada data shows that more sport hunters have been hunting snow geese since the spring hunt was introduced.

Last season, when there was no spring hunt, 243 hunting permits were sold in the N.W.T. and 1,399 birds were bagged. This season sales of hunting permits jumped to 389, with 3,884 birds harvested.

While traditional Inuvialuit hunters like Amos welcome the new hunt, they say this alone won't control the snow geese population that's destroying the sensitive tundra vegetation on Banks Island.

The bird sanctuary, located in the southwestern corner of Banks Island, is over almost 20,000 square kilometres: almost four times the size of P.E.I.

Traditional hunters like Amos are free to hunt in that area under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, however, hunting for everyone else is prohibited.

"It covers a large part of the island," he said, "and it is hindering us now from being able to take the sports hunters out to areas where they are guaranteed to get geese."

Bring in the sport hunters

According to Amos, opening up parts of the sanctuary to hunting would attract more hunters to Banks Island.

It would also allow local outfitters and guides the opportunity to market their community as ideal locations where hunters will always be successful.

"I am positive when hunters know they are able to hunt in that area they will be more interested in coming here," he said.
Dallas Gertner, an outfitter from Calgary, says that expanding the N.W.T. snow goose hunt won't make it an easy sell for southern clients: 'they can go all throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC for a third of the costs.' (Submitted)

However, an outfitter from Calgary who often facilitates hunts in the Mackenzie Mountains isn't confident the promise of unlimited snow geese will attract hunters from outside the territory.

"They can go all throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. for a third of the costs," said Dallas Gertner, who works with Redstone Trophy Hunts.

Communities like Sachs Harbour should find ways to combine snow geese hunting with other hunts that would make it worthwhile for hunters to fly all the way to one of Canada's Northernmost communities, said Gertner.

"If they could shoot two birds with one stone, then I think it would appeal to them and you would get them up there."

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