Regulation Change Notification: Migratory Bird Seasons for Colorado 2012 Prepared by: Jim Gammonley, Draft 28 November 2011

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1 Regulation Change Notification: Migratory Bird Seasons for Colorado 01 Prepared by: Jim Gammonley, Draft 8 November 011 These proposed regulations for migratory game bird hunting seasons in Colorado are preliminary and contingent upon final federal regulation frameworks. Federal frameworks will not be finalized until June 01 for non-waterfowl seasons, September teal seasons, and September Canada goose seasons; federal frameworks for other waterfowl seasons will not be finalized until late July 01. The proposed season dates and bag/possession limits presented below assume no changes to 011 federal frameworks, and represent no change from except for adjustments for the calendar, except as highlighted and explained below Proposed Regulations Regulations Season Proposed dates Days Bag/possession Dates Days Bag/possession Sora and Virginia Rail Sep 1 - Nov /5 Sep 1 - Nov /5 Snipe Sep 1 - Dec /16 Sep 1 - Dec /16 Band-tailed Pigeon Sep /10 Sep /10 Doves (Mourning, White-winged) Sep 1 - Nov /30 Sep 1 - Nov /30 Eurasian Collared-dove Year-round 365 no limit Year-round 365 no limit Sandhill Crane (regular season) Sep 9 - Nov /6 Oct 1 - Nov /6 Crow Oct 1 - Jan no limit Oct 1 - Jan no limit Falconry No extended season No extended season Duck/Coot Pacific Flyway Sep - Oct /14, 5/5 Sep 4 - Oct /14, 5/5 Nov 3 - Jan /14, 5/5 Nov 3 - Jan /14, 5/5 Central Flyway Mountain/Foothills Sep 9 - Nov /1, 15/30 Oct 1 - Nov /1, 15/30 Zone Dec 1 - Jan /1, 15/30 Dec 3 - Jan /1, 15/30 Central Flyway Northeast Zone Oct 6 - Nov 6 5 6/1, 15/30 Oct 8 - Dec /1, 15/30 Dec 15 - Jan /1, 15/30 Dec 3 - Jan /1, 15/30 Central Flyway Southeast Zone Oct 4 - Jan /1, 15/30 Oct 6 - Jan /1, 15/30 Central Flyway September teal Sep /8 Sep /8

2 Regulation Change Notification: Migratory Bird Seasons for Colorado Proposed Regulations Regulations Season Proposed dates Days Bag/possession Dates Days Bag/possession Goose Pacific Flyway September Canada goose Sep /8 Sep /8 Pacific Flyway dark goose Sep -Nov /8 Sep 4 - Oct 9 4/8 Nov 3 - Jan /8 Nov 4 - Jan /8 Pacific Flyway light goose Sep /8 Sep 4 - Oct 9 10/0 Nov - Jan /8 Nov 4 - Jan /0 Central Flyway Northern Front Range dark goose Central Flyway North Park, South Park, San Luis Valley dark goose Sep 9 - Oct /8 Oct /8 Nov 17 - Feb /8 Nov 19 - Feb /8 Sep 9 - Oct /8 Oct /8 Nov 17 - Feb /8 Nov 19 - Feb /8 Central Flyway remainder dark goose Nov 17 - Feb Apr Nov 19 - Feb /8 Central Flyway light goose Oct 7 - Feb /no limit Oct 9 - Feb /no limit Light goose conservation order Feb 11 Apr no limit Feb 13 - Apr no limit Youth Waterfowl Weekend Pacific Flyway Oct Same as regular Oct Central Flyway Mountain/Foothills Sep -3 season limits for Sep 4-5 Central Flyway Northeast Zone Central Flyway Southeast Zone Sep -3 Oct 0-1 ducks, coots, geese Sep 4-5 Oct -3 Same as regular season limits for ducks, coots, geese HIGHLIGHTED CHANGES Central Flyway Northeast Zone duck/coot season dates: proposed dates shorten the length of the first season segment by 1 week, and starts the second season segment 1 week earlier, compared to This extends the first season through the weekend after Thanksgiving but avoids duck hunting closures on South Platte SWAs during the opening days of the late plains deer season.

3 Central Flyway goose season dates: current federal frameworks allow dark goose seasons to extend to the Sunday nearest Feb 15, which in 013 is Feb 17. In recent years the main portion of the dark goose season has opened on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Closing the season on Feb 17 would require opening the season on Nov 4, the Saturday after Thanksgiving (unless this portion of the season was split). The proposed dates keep the opening on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but the season closes a week earlier than the latest date allowed under federal frameworks. The actual calendar dates of the proposed season are only days earlier than the season dates. This also allows the Central Flyway light goose regular season and light goose conservation order to have similar dates to Federal Frameworks (dates adjusted for calendar) Season Framework dates Days Bag/possession Other Sora and Virginia Rail Sep 1, Jan /5 Snipe Sep 1, Feb /16 Band-tailed Pigeon Sep 1, Nov /10 Doves (Mourning, White-winged) Sep 1, Jan /30 Eurasian Collared-dove no federal restrictions Sandhill Crane (regular season) Sep 1, Feb /6 Crow Falconry Duck/Coot Pacific Flyway Sep, Jan /14, 5/5 Central Flyway Mountain/Foothills Sep, Jan /1, 15/30 Season length includes 3 HPMMU days (must be the Zone same in all zones); regular season may be split into segments in each zone; current zones must remain in Central Flyway Northeast Zone place through seasons Central Flyway Southeast Zone Central Flyway September teal Sep 1, Sep /8 East of I-5, Lake and Chaffee counties

4 011 Federal Frameworks (dates adjusted for calendar) Season Framework dates Days Bag/possession Other Goose Pacific Flyway September Canada goose Sep 1, Sep /8 Pacific Flyway dark goose Sep, Jan /8 Pacific Flyway light goose Sep, Mar /0 Central Flyway Northern Front Range dark goose Sep, Feb /10 Season may be split into up to 3 segments if an evaluation is conducted Central Flyway North Park, South Park, San Luis Valley dark goose Central Flyway remainder dark goose Central Flyway light goose Sep, Mar /no limit Light goose conservation order outside other waterfowl seasons, no limits, electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, 1/ hr after sunset Youth Waterfowl Weekend Pacific Flyway Central Flyway Mountain/Foothills Central Flyway Northeast Zone Central Flyway Southeast Zone Up to 14 days before/after regular duck season, or during split Same as regular season limits for ducks, coots, geese Hunters 15 or younger, non-hunting mentor 18 or older

5 ISSUES SUBMITTAL FORM Date: 01/10/1 ISSUE: Should a limited hunting season for greater sandhill cranes be opened in northwest Colorado allowing permitted hunters to take advantage of the quota established annually by the USFWS? DISCUSSION (FACTS AND FIGURES, EXPLANATION OF ISSUE): This issue has been raised by local Yampa Valley waterfowl hunters. These are primarily goose hunters who have noticed an increase in the number of sandhill cranes they see while goose hunting during September and early October and questioned why Colorado does not have a season on this population of sandhill cranes. Additionally several landowners who allow goose hunting have mentioned to the hunters that they have crop damage when cranes trample wheat prior to harvest and would like to see the number of cranes reduced. After contacting local Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff with their desire for a season they requested an issue paper be submitted to propose a crane season and collected signatures from hunters and landowners in support of the season. At this time 9 signatures from hunters in support of the season and two letters from landowners have been submitted to local CPW staff. Note: This is NOT the same issue submitted in 005 requesting a sandhill crane season in the San Luis Valley. It is similar in background and population data but different in geographical area and possibly local attitudes about crane hunting and viewing. It is recognized that crane hunting is not popular with certain segments of the public and cranes are highly regarded as watchable wildlife. That concern was the major reason the 005 issue paper to open a sandhill crane hunting season in the San Luis Valley did not move forward. However, hunting opportunity in Colorado is being lost by not having a season without any valid biological reason presented not to have one. Opposition has been based on emotion from those fundamentally opposed to crane hunting. Hunting quotas for the RMP of sandhill cranes are more highly regulated, monitored and analyzed than any other small game species in Colorado including sage grouse. Two populations of sandhill cranes occur in Colorado: Rocky Mountain (RMP) and Mid-continent (MCP). The 008 MCP estimate was over 571,000 cranes and is composed of a mixture of three subspecies including lesser (Grus. canadensis canadensis), Canadian (G. c. rowani), and greater (G. c. tabida). The RMP numbers around 19,000 and is composed solely of the greater subspecies. All of these subspecies are considered migratory game birds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Colorado has an open season on MCP sandhill cranes but does not have an open season on RMP sandhill cranes. Colorado is the only state within the range of RMP sandhill cranes that does not have an open season. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico, collectively harvest on average about 50 RMP cranes per year. The management plan for RMP sandhill cranes, endorsed by both the Pacific and Central flyway councils and supported by the USFWS, allows for the regulated sport harvest of these birds. Annual harvest is contingent upon a population index in excess of 15,000 birds. The population index is estimated by the mean of the three most recent, reliable surveys conducted on fall pre-migration staging areas. The average of the three most recent ( ) pre-migration surveys is 19,66. Based on the allowable harvest formula of the three-year running average we expect a quota of about 900 greater sandhill cranes will be established for the 01 hunting season flyway-wide. Each year the allowable harvest is allocated among states based on approximate sandhill crane abundance and seasonal distribution. Because Colorado does not have a season, our allotment is currently re-allocated among other states. During mid-september an annual crane census is conducted along the Yampa and Elk River areas between Hayden and Steamboat Springs. On September 13, 011 a total of 1,79 cranes were observed feeding in fields near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Hayden power plant, Morgan Bottoms, and along the Yampa and Elk Rivers. The 10-year average (00-011) for crane observed in these areas is 634 cranes. See graph below. 1

6 The principal wintering area for RMP sandhill cranes is the Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico. Most of these birds nest in west-central Montana south and west through central and eastern Idaho, western and central Wyoming, and northern Utah to northwest Colorado. The major spring and fall migration stopover area is the San Luis Valley, Colorado, where virtually the entire population spends three to four months annually. Potential Impact of Hunting. One biological concern expressed has been the potential harvest of local breeding birds and how that might affect the local crane population in the Yampa Valley. In order to minimize harvest of local birds the hunting season should not open until late September when migrating cranes from more northern areas congregate in northwest Colorado and no doubt mix with local birds. Odds of hunters harvesting Yampa Valley breeding cranes would be similar whether these birds are harvested in Colorado or when our allocation of permits is reallocated to New Mexico, Arizona, or Mexico as is currently the case. Another concern is that it has been many years since the down-listing, yet we haven t continued to monitor the breeding birds (last nesting survey was in 005) to determine if they are meeting the minimum requirements for reclassification from a Special Status Species. It might make sense to put resources into some of the measures suggested by the Colorado Recovery Plan (nest flights and possibly recruitment estimates) to get a benchmark of where we are today prior to starting a hunting season. Federal Framework. The hunting regulation frameworks for RMP sandhill cranes established by the USFWS allows for a 30-day season between 1 Sept. and 31 Jan., with a bag of 3 a day, a possession limit of 6, and a season limit of 9. Proposed NW Colorado Hunt. In order to minimize disturbance to staging cranes prior to the annual mid-september crane census and reduce the chance of local breeding sandhill cranes being taken by hunters, the season should begin no earlier than the third to fourth week of September. Ideally a crane season that aligns with the first split of the Pacific Flyway duck and goose seasons would provide the most opportunity for waterfowl hunters who also wish to bag a crane. For 011 the first split of the Pacific Flyway seasons ran September 4 th -October 10 th. In order to comply with federal regulations Colorado hunters would be required to obtain a limited permit prior to hunting RMP sandhill cranes and mandatorily report their hunting activities including where they hunted, dates they hunted, if they harvested a crane, and age of harvested birds (determined by feathers on cranes forehead), etc. Because NW Colorado

7 would have such a small quota of cranes (between 0 and 50 based on the annual population index) a limit of one crane permit/hunter annually might be the best way to spread out opportunity. Most states issue 50% more permits than the quota in order to account for unsuccessful hunters and those who obtain the permit but do not hunt cranes. It has been suggested that to avoid overharvest prior to determining the average success rate for NW Colorado, the number of crane permits available should be equal to the allowable quota until the 3-year average hunter success rate has been established. After that the 3-year running average hunter success rate could be used to keep permit numbers in line with the harvest quota. RMP Crane Status in Colorado. RMP cranes were designated by the state of Colorado as non-game and endangered on the nesting range in 1973 under the 1973 Colorado Nongame, Threatened, or Endangered Species Conservation Act (Article, CDOW Statutes). It was down-listed to threatened status in 1993 and de-listed in The 199 state recovery plan states that the greater sandhill crane in Colorado should remain classified as a Species of Special Concern for a minimum of 5 years following de-listing. Given that we are now 9 years past that 5-year benchmark and 14 years since de-listing, and given increasing crane distribution we may wish to revisit the Species of Special Concern status. The greater sandhill crane is identified as a non-game wildlife species in Chapter 10, Article IV of the CPW regulations and as a migratory game bird in Chapter 5, Article I and VI. With the adoption of this season, both populations of sandhill cranes would be game species. Therefore, this issue recommends that they be removed from Chapter 10. WHO ARE THE INTERNAL/EXTERNAL PUBLICS IN THIS ISSUE? WHAT INPUT PROCESS HAS OCCURRED? Local Parks and Wildlife staff Area s 6 and 10 s and discussion at area meetings Parks and Wildlife Avian Research staff background information provided by research section Bird hunters - phone calls and face to face meetings with those requesting a season Birders no input at this time Watchable wildlife enthusiasts no input at this time ALTERNATIVES: (POSSIBLE OUTCOMES or POSSIBLE REGULATIONS): 1) Status quo - No change to state regulations. No hunting season on RMP cranes in Northwest Colorado. ) *Preferred Alternative* - Change state regulations to allow a limited hunting season on RMP cranes in Moffat and Routt Counties of Northwest Colorado following guidelines in federal frameworks and the cooperative flyway management plan. Have this season run concurrent with the first split of the Pacific Flyway duck and goose seasons, but in no case open the RMP of cranes for hunting prior to or during the 3 rd week of September to minimize harvest of local breeding cranes. 3) Change state regulations to allow a limited hunting season on RMP cranes in more restrictive portions of Northwest Colorado following guidelines in federal frameworks and the cooperative flyway management plan than in alternative above. Examples of this could be: 1.) Allow crane hunting within X number of miles of the Yampa River in Moffat and Routt Counties.) Allow crane hunting in Moffat and Routt Counties excluding California Park and Steamboat Lake. 3) Allow crane hunting in Moffat County and Routt County west of Milner only. This option would make regulations more complex. 4) Put the issue on hold until more recent nesting and chick recruitment information can be obtained for local breeding cranes in the traditional survey areas around the Yampa Valley, California Park, Slater Park, and Steamboat Lake. Possibly add some new areas to survey where nesting and staging cranes have recently been reported along the Williams Fork River near Hamilton and potential breeding habitat near Craig and Maybell. 3

8 Issue Raised by: Author of the issue paper (if different than person raising the issue): CC: The public (waterfowl hunters) Jeff Yost, Jim Gammonley Area 6, Area 10, Brad Petch, Ron Velarde, Rick Basagoitia, Ed Gorman, Jim Gammonley APPROVED FOR FURTHER RON VELARDE CONSIDERATION BY: REQUIRES NEW SPACE IN THE BROCHURE? ISSUE PAPER HAS BEEN ED TO REG REVIEW MGRS GROUP? RECOMMENDED FOR CONSENT AGENDA? YES YES NO 4

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