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New Jersey to Implement Spring Snow Goose Conservation Order in 2010

January 5, 2010

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife plans to implement a Conservation Order (CO) for light geese. This will be the second consecutive year that a CO has been authorized in New Jersey. In New Jersey the CO timeframe is February 16 through April 10, 2010. Under the CO, light geese can be taken with no bag limits outside of the traditional hunting period, while also allowing the use of electronic calls and shotguns loaded with up to seven shells.

A Conservation Order is a special management action authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that is needed to control certain wildlife populations when traditional management programs are unsuccessful in preventing overabundance of that population. This action is granted under the authority of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The intent of the CO is to reduce and/or stabilize North American "light" (greater and lesser snow geese as well as Ross's geese are collectively referred to as "light" geese) goose populations that are above population objectives. In the Atlantic Flyway, greater snow geese are the most abundant light goose population. These birds breed in the Eastern Canadian high arctic and winter predominantly in the eastern United States.

Key fall and spring migration staging grounds are centered on the Saint Lawrence River Valley in southern Quebec. The greater snow goose population has grown to record highs and now numbers over 1 million birds. This level is twice the population objective of 500,000 birds. Negative impacts on wetland habitats have been observed and measured on greater snow goose breeding, staging and wintering areas. Serious damage to agriculture occurs on migration and wintering areas as well.

Decreasing the light goose population will help lessen negative impacts to arctic, migration and wintering habitats, thus improving the health of all wildlife populations associated with these habitats. It will also help in reducing agricultural damage.

In June 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the management of light geese. The EIS examined five alternatives for managing light goose populations, ranging from no action to the preferred alternative of authorizing regulations to increase harvest for overabundant light goose populations. In November 2008, the Service finalized rules to implement the recommendation in the EIS.

Special regulations and a CO have been in place in the Central and Mississippi Flyways since 1999, through the Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act. The final rule makes the regulations permanent in those flyways, and also makes Atlantic Flyway states, including New Jersey, eligible to implement them.

Implementation of special regulations has met with some success in mid-continent North America. Since implementation of the CO in 1999, the harvest of mid-continent light geese has more than doubled, and the population growth rate as measured by the midwinter index has been reduced.

Major components of the Conservation Order in New Jersey are as follows:

Conservation Order Dates: February 16-April 10, 2010, except Sundays. Light geese may not be pursued on Sundays.

License and Permit Requirements:

  1. 2010 New Jersey Hunting License
  2. 2009 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (NOTE: 2009 stamps are valid until June 30, 2010)
  3. 2009 NJ Waterfowl Stamp (NOTE: 2009 stamps are valid until June 30, 2010)
  4. NJ 2010 Light Goose Conservation Order certification (Harvest Diary Sheet)    (NOTE: A HIP certification is NOT required).
Farmers hunting on their own land are exempt from the hunting license requirement but must still obtain both stamps and the CO certification.

CO certifications cannot be obtained through a license agent. CO participants can obtain a certification in two ways:

  • Through the license and permit Web site at Hunters will need their Conservation ID Number to enter the web page to complete their CO certification. There is a $2.00 administrative fee to obtain the certification. Hunters will be able to print their CO certification on their home computer after completing the certification process. CO certifications are currently available online.

  • Hunters may also choose to have a certification mailed to them. To get a mailed CO certification, send the documents below to the following address: NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, PO Box 400, Trenton, NJ, 08625-0400, Attention: Light Goose CO Certification.

    1. Legible photocopy of 2010 Hunting or All-Around Sportsmen license which clearly shows the licensee's Conservation ID Number and date of birth.
    2. Check or money order for $2.00 payable to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
    3. Self-addressed, stamped (44 cents) envelope.
    4. Daytime telephone number

Location: Statewide.

Firearms: Shotguns not larger than 10 gauge and capable of holding no more than 7 shells, including magazine and chamber.

Ammunition: Nontoxic shot not to exceed Size T (0.200 inch) only. Nontoxic shot includes steel, bismuth, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-nickel-iron (HEVI-SHOT), tungsten-iron-nickel-tin (TINT), tungsten-bronze and tungsten-tin-bismuth. See for approved nontoxic shot.Possession of lead shot is prohibited.

Electronic Calls Allowed: Yes

Shooting Hours: hour before sunrise to hour after sunset

Daily Bag and Possession Limit: None

Legal Species: Greater snow geese, lesser snow geese, and Ross's geese.

Reporting Requirements: A diary table is provided on The Light Goose Conservation Order Certification to record hunting activity during the Conservation Order. This diary table will be needed to meet the mandatory harvest reporting requirement.

For each day light geese are hunted, record the date, county, number of geese harvested (even if zero geese), number of geese knocked down but were not retrieved and the number of geese harvested with the first 3 shells in the firearm. In addition, indicate if any of the geese were harvested using special methods including:

1) extra shells allowed in unplugged shotguns,
2) during the extended shooting hours from sunset to 1/2 hour after sunset and/or,
3) electronic calls.

All individuals issued a light goose CO certification, including those who did not pursue or harvest any geese, are required to submit a harvest report by either completing an online harvest survey or by mailing their diary table. Online harvest surveys can be completed at Online reporting will be available beginning March 1. Hunters should be sure to wait until they are done hunting for the CO season before reporting, because individuals will only be able to report their harvest in one online session.

The harvest survey will ask hunters to use their diary table to summarize harvest by time period, by special regulations used, and by county.

Those without internet access must mail their CO diary table to:

Light Goose Harvest Survey
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
2201 Route 631
Woodbine, NJ 08270
Harvest surveys must be completed or diary tables mailed by April 30, 2010. Failure to report may result in ineligiblity to participate in future Conservation Orders.

Prohibited Under Federal Regulations:

  • Persons who take light geese under the conservation order may not sell or offer for sale those birds or their plumage but may possess, transport, and otherwise properly use them.

  • Persons acting under the authority of the conservation order may take light geese by any method except those prohibited as follows:

    (i) With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10-gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance.

    (ii) From or by means, aid, or use of a sinkbox or any other type of low floating device having a depression affording the person a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water.

    (iii) From or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft of any kind.

    (iv) From or by means of any motorboat or other craft having a motor attached, or any sailboat, unless the motor has been completely shut off and the sails furled, and its progress has ceased. A craft under power may be used only to retrieve dead or crippled birds; however, the craft may not be used under power to shoot any crippled bird.

    (v) By the use or aid of live birds as decoys. It is a violation for any person to take light geese on an area where tame or captive live geese are present unless such birds are and have been for a period of 10 consecutive days before the taking, confined within an enclosure that substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals the birds from the sight of light geese.

    (vi) By means or aid of any motor-driven land, water, or air conveyance, or any sailboat used for the purpose of or resulting in the concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up of light geese.

    (vii) By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. The Federal baiting regulation is defined on page 2 of the NJ 2009-10 Migratory Bird Regulations.

    Where to Pursue Light Geese: During the CO, light geese may be found statewide but are most abundant in four locations.

    First and foremost, Delaware Bay tidal marshes and nearby inland farm fields contain the most light geese. During the past few years, about 100,000 light geese are counted in these areas during the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey. Delaware Bay tidal marshes from Goshen Creek in Cape May County to Mad Horse Creek in Salem County contain an abundance of public land. The Division administers much of this public land as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

    A list of WMAs and maps can be found at Key WMAs for spring light geese include (from south to north): Dennis Creek, Heislerville, Egg Island, Fortescue, Nantuxent, New Sweden, Dix and Mad Horse Creek. Excursions for light geese in these marshes are much more likely to be successful with a dependable powerboat. Those venturing for snow geese in late winter are urged to follow winter boating safety precautions - see the NJ State Police news release at and the Waterfowl Hunting Safety Tips (YouTube Video).

    Second, considerable numbers of light geese can be found in central New Jersey. Flocks in this region range far and wide and are usually found in an area from Cranbury to Roosevelt to Columbus to Yardville. Generally, these birds are found field feeding on private farms.

    Third, light geese are also found in the northern part of the state centered on Merrill Creek Reservoir near Phillipsburg. These flocks also range far and wide on a daily basis and are usually found from Belvidere to Washington to Clinton to Flemington. Most of these flocks are also found on private farms. (NOTE: Waterfowl hunting is not permitted on Merrill Creek Reservoir).

    Finally, light geese can be found in and around Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville. However, this flock tends to be much smaller in the spring than in the fall.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q. I've heard that light geese are difficult to hunt. Are there any tips for taking these wary birds?
    A. The Atlantic Flyway Council has prepared a booklet, Successful Hunting Tactics for Greater Snow Geese (pdf, 225kb) with successful hunting tactics.

    Q. How can I prepare the birds after a successful trip?
    A. The Arctic Goose Joint Venture Website includes a downloadable cookbook with 40 pages of snow goose recipes available at


    arrow What Is a Light Goose Conservation Order?
    arrowResults of the 2009 Light Goose Conservation Order in the Atlantic Flyway
    arrow NJ Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Information
    arrow 2009-2010 Migratory Bird Regulations Booklet (pdf, 108kb)
    arrow US FWS Issues Rule on Approved Nontoxic Shot for Waterfowl
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    Department of Environmental Protection
    P. O. Box 402
    Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

    Last Updated: January 5, 2010