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Published August 19, 2013, 08:44 AM

Limit changes could aid early goose season in North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota wildlife officials hope an early hunting season aimed at reducing the number of troublesome Canada geese will get a boost from increases in how many birds hunters can kill and keep.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota wildlife officials hope an early hunting season aimed at reducing the number of troublesome Canada geese will get a boost from increases in how many birds hunters can kill and keep.

North Dakota has opened its early Canada goose season in August since 2008, but resident geese, which can heavily damage crops, remain too abundant in most areas of the state, according to the Game and Fish Department.

Last year, the daily bag limit during the early season was bumped from eight to 15. It remains at that level this year, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year also is allowing states to increase the possession limit from double the daily limit to three times the daily limit — meaning hunters can possess up to 45 at one time.

Higher bag limits are attracting more hunters, Game and Fish wildlife biologist Mike Szymanski told the Grand Forks Herald.

"Last year, our harvest was almost three times as high as it had been before we started the August take, and some of that is getting more participation, more hunters afield," he said. "But the other part is the actual number of birds shot."

Last year's early season with its higher bag limit took an estimated 71,000 Canada geese out of the population. Another 21,000 geese were killed during the regular season. But the Canada goose population in North Dakota this past spring stood at about 350,000 birds going into nesting season — five times higher than in 2000.

"It's tough to keep up with them," Szymanski said. "They have a really high survival rate, and they do pretty well reproductively."

This year's early hunting season opened last Thursday and runs through Sept. 15 in much of the state. It runs through Sept. 7 in the Missouri River zone, which is along the river south of Lake Sakakawea to the South Dakota border.

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