The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the Wildlife Services Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working together to offer Virginia farmers an additional tool to manage problems caused by resident Canada geese.

The tool is the new Agricultural Depredation Order, which is being offered for the first time in Virginia in 2009. This Order authorizes landowners, operators, and tenants actively engaged in commercial agriculture to use certain lethal methods to control resident Canada geese on lands that they personally control where geese are damaging agricultural crops.

Said VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan, "We have been working to address damage by resident Canada geese for years and feel this new program will speed up the process in order to be more responsive to farmers."

Todd Haymore, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says that resident Canada geese, i.e. those that don't migrate, but stay in Virginia year-round, are a big problem for farmers. "During the winter Canada geese can cause a lot of damage for winter wheat and cover crops. In early spring when crops are beginning to appear in the field, the geese can strip a field bare by plucking the young plants out of the ground. They eat crops and grain, and where they occur in large enough numbers, they can raise the fecal bacterial levels in water supplies. We get calls all the time about resident geese from desperate farmers, and are glad to see some relief for them through this new Agricultural Depredation Order."

The Agricultural Depredation Order was proposed in the Environmental Impact Statement on Resident Canada geese published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September 2006. Based on this EIS, the USFWS revised the Federal Regulations that pertain to resident Canada geese. These regulations allow for several Depredation Orders to assist with the control and management of resident Canada goose populations.

One of these depredation orders, the Nest and Egg Depredation Order, was first implemented in 2007 and allows landowners to destroy resident Canada goose nests and eggs. This Depredation Order can be used by landowners in Virginia to help manage goose numbers. No permit is required, but you must register with the USFWS in order to conduct this activity. A special Web site has been developed specifically for this registration https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx and provides additional information on the program.

The Agricultural Depredation Order is a bit different than the Nest and Egg Order in that it is administered by the state agencies and state authorization is required to conduct this control. There is no federal Web site registration or federal permit, but a state permit is required. The permit is free and agricultural producers can apply for the permit by calling the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, P.O. Box 130, Moseley, Va. 23120 Phone: (804) 739-7739 FAX: (804) 739-7738.

The authorization process will provide a quick turn-around for permits and should make the process more user friendly for landowners and managers.

Activities allowed under this permit include the lethal take of Canada geese from May 1 through Aug. 31, and the destruction of Canada goose nests and eggs between March 1 and June 30. All management actions must occur on the property controlled/managed by the applicant. Geese may not be taken using hunting methods such as decoys and calls. Permit holders must keep a log of their control activities and must submit a report by Sept. 30 of each year detailing the number of birds taken. A copy of the Permit Application, detailing the terms and conditions of the permit, and an Annual Report Form can be obtained from the USDA at the address/number above.

Past efforts have shown that Canada goose depredation control is most effective when a combination of management techniques is used in an integrated approach. These techniques include hunting seasons (special early and regular Resident Canada goose seasons with liberal bag limits), nest and egg destruction, non-lethal treatment methods like hazing and harassment, habitat management and lethal alternatives when needed.

For additional information about Resident Canada geese and other waterfowl populations in Virginia, visit the waterfowl section on the VDGIF Web site — http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/waterfowl/.