The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is accepting public comment this month on proposed hunting rule changes for the 2017-18 season. Increased goose bag and possession limits are part of the recommendations, in response to the growing number of geese in the state.

Proposed hunting rules include elimination of local elk areas, increased goose limits

Several elk areas would be eliminated under the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s proposed hunting rules for the 2017-18 seasons. Public comment will be accepted through Feb. 22 and at a public hearing March 17-18 in Olympia before the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopts the rules at their April 14-15 meeting in Spokane.

Under the recommendations submitted by Assistant State Wildlife Director Eric Gardner, the Tri Valley, South Bank, Chehalis Valley and Willapa elk areas would be eliminated, meaning the land within those areas will be reabsorbed into their respective Game Management Units and fall under the same rules governing those units.

“Elimination of the areas just means we won’t be managing specifically for the smaller elk area and the area is absorbed in the larger Game Management Unit,” said Gardner. “The areas we are recommending for removal have not been used in that capacity for some time now, five years or so.”

Special elk areas are created to give wildlife managers the flexibility to adjust hunting seasons and regulations to address wildlife/landowner conflicts. For example, if the population of elk in an area is damaging crops, livestock or property in a certain area, that area can be designated a special elk area and seasons can be adjusted accordingly to mitigate the problem. Since the areas in the recommendations have not reportedly been adversely affected by elk, they no longer need a special section in the regulations to manage them, the department says. If the recommendations are approved, the elk areas will be absorbed into the Wynoochee (648), Satsop (651), North River (658) and Minot Peak (660) game management units.

However, one change proposed by WDFW would significantly increase the daily limit of white-fronted geese and white geese throughout the state in response to those species’ growing abundance.

Bag and possession limits in Goose Area 2 under the proposal would feature a daily bag limit of five Canada geese in Grays Harbor County and 15 in Pacific County during the Sept. 2-10 season.

Statewide, the goose hunting season under the proposal would run Oct. 14, 2017, to Jan. 28, 2018, for snow, Ross’, blue, and white-fronted geese; and Oct. 14-26 and Nov. 4, 2017 through Jan. 28, 2018 for all other species. Dusky Canada geese — a subspecies recognizable by its darker body coloring — remain off-limits to hunters. The daily bag limit would be four Canada geese, 10 white-fronted geese, and six white geese – snow, Ross’, and blue. Possession limits would be three times the daily bag limit.

Small game and big game seasons for all hunting types are also under consideration. Most vary little in opportunity from the 2016-18 hunting seasons. A list of the proposals and a form for public comment can be found online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/.

“We encourage everyone interested in the upcoming hunting seasons to check the proposed changes and send us your comments,” said state game manager Anis Aoude.