Because of an extended hunting season for snow geese, some reservoirs in southeastern Colorado are closed to non-hunting activities.
Boating closures are in effect on Nee Noshe and Nee Gronda Reservoirs between Eads and Lamar, Meredith Reservoir near Ordway, Adobe Creek (Blue Lake) north of Las Animas, and John Martin Reservoir east of Las Animas.
The closures on Meredith, Adobe Creek and John Martin Reservoirs remain in effect until March 1st.
The closures on Ne Gronda, Ne Noshe and a "no wake" regulation on Thurston Reservoir remain in effect until April 1st.
During the closures, the reservoirs are closed to public access (except to retrieve downed waterfowl).
There are no closures on Upper or Lower Queens reservoirs, which are open to boating year-round (weather permitting).
A check-station will be open daily at Queens Reservoir. The hours of operation are from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. The telephone number is 719-438-5755. Pit chips can be picked up at the check station after 4:30 p.m. to reserve a pit for the following morning.
"As a safety measure, boaters and anglers in southeastern Colorado reminded that there may be hunters in the area because of the extended goose hunting season," said Mel DePra, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife in Lamar.
Ninety percent of the land in southeastern Colorado is private, so hunters must remember to get permission before going on private lands.
"Light" geese include the lesser and greater snow goose and the Ross^ goose. With the exception of a blueish color phase, all three species are white in color and are often found together.
The extended season is designed to offset a population explosion of light geese.
Colorado^s eastern late light goose season is February 15 - 28. Before February 28, the daily bag limit for light geese is 20. There is no possession limit. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
A special extended light goose season is March 1 - 31. During the extended season, daily bag and possession limits are waived. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Electronic calls will be allowed during both seasons from February 15 - March 31.
All other normal regulations for waterfowl hunting apply, including license and stamp requirements and HIP registration.
"Due to the snow goose^s natural wariness and tendency to fly in large flocks, traditional hunting methods have proven ineffective at checking population growth," said Mark Elkins of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Wildlife experts believe hunters will do best with huge decoy spreads for snows (700 plus decoys). They also advise hunters to set out fliers to add motion to their decoys.
The extended light goose hunting season in Colorado is part of a North American effort to reduce the number of snow geese that summer on fragile breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. Colorado is one of 24 states allowing extra hunting to reduce snow goose numbers before the birds head north.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the summer habitat around Canada^s Hudson Bay can support about one million geese. Currently, an estimated five million geese spend their summer in the area. The large goose population increases the risk that avian cholera, or another contagious disease, could wipe out most of the geese. Such an event would affect other birds as well.
Biologists from the U.S. and Canada discovered that the growing populations of snow geese are ravaging their own arctic breeding grounds by uprooting turf and grasses, leading in turn to erosion and increased soil salinity.
The damage has already resulted in declines in populations of other birds including the American widgeon, Northern shovelers, yellow rails and rednecked phalaropes. Unless there is a reduction in the snow goose population those declines will continue, and likely worsen.
Biologists acknowledge that the number of snow geese is already too large and growing at a rate of about five-percent a year.
Annual winter counts indicate the population of light geese in the U.S. has more than tripled in the past 30 years. In 1969, there were just over 800,000 light geese. Today, there are approximately 2.8 million.
In Colorado, the light goose population, which moves through the Eastern Plains in the spring, has grown from approximately 2,000 a year to more than 100,000 a year.
Typically, snow geese migrate through eastern Colorado and spend much of the winter there. They are especially prevalent along the lower Arkansas River Valley, where numbers climb to 80,000 and higher in March, when the birds prepare to return north.
"The extended hunting season is designed to increase the snow goose harvest within cooperating states, which will decrease further damage to fragile arctic habitats," said Elkins.
Geese are attracted to eastern Colorado because of numerous reservoirs and agricultural lands with ample grain.
For more information, call the Division of Wildlife office in Lamar at (719) 336-6600.