We summarized hunter visits, success, and the magnitude and species-subspecies composition of tho goose harvest recorded on California public hunting areas (PHAs) during 1950-89. Of six geographic regions, the Northeast accounted for the largest portion of the PHA harvest (55%); most of the remainder occurred in the Sacramento (30%) and Imperial (10%) Valley regions. Harvest, hunter visits, and success were low during the 1950s, but increased during the 1960s as new PHAs were added and data from Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs), where about half of California's PHA goose harvest occurs, became available. Success and harvest reflected declining goose abundance during the 1970s; however, hunter visits remained high on most PHAs because ducks were abundant. During the 1980s, declining populations of greater white-fronted geese, Anser albifrons frontalis, and cackling Canada geese, Branta canadensis minima, prompted restrictive regulations resulting in low harvest and success. Hunter visits were further reduced because of declining duck abundance and overall declines in hunter numbers. White-fronted geese were most prominent in the Northeast and Suisun Marsh harvest, but the lesser snow goose, Chen caerulescens caerulescens, was more important in other regions. Overall, the cackling Canada goose was the third most common goose harvested. The harvest of most geese peaked during 1965-74, coinciding with a peak in hunter visits, and then declined. However, the harvest of Canada geese (includes unknown proportions of western, B. c. moffitti, Taverner's, B. c. taverneri, and lesser, B. c. parvipes) and Ross' geese, Chen rossi, increased slightly throughout the study period. PHA harvest averaged 9-15% of the total state goose harvest during 1960-89. Success on PHAs was greater than statewide success until the 1980's, when restrictive regulations were imposed in zones encompassing many Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Basin PHAs. White-fronted geese comprised a larger portion of the PHA bag than state-wide, and their decline reduced hunting opportunity for PHA hunters. The status of Pacific Flyway geese has improved in recent years, but intensive population management and monitoring should continue.
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Changing patterns of goose harvest on California public hunting areas