Snow geese are a common, and at times, breathtaking sight during the winter in the Lehigh Valley. Tens of thousands of snow geese are attracted by agricultural land and many limestone quarries fed by underground springs making them slow to freeze. Passers-by often pull over to watch as great flocks of the white birds spiral up from the corn fields or quarries in a white tornado.
Flocks of snow and Ross'geese have grown over the years, ballooning from 50,000 in the mid 1960s to around one million today, reports the Pennsylvania Game Commission, with most passing through Pennsylvania during spring and fall migrations. These record population levels have waterfowl mangers concerned over the potential to cause extensive damage to the fragile arctic and sub-arctic breeding grounds where they nest.
Waterfowl managers, concerned about the impacts of too many snow geese, have recommended a population goal of 500,000 in the Atlantic Flyway. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a Conservation Order for snow geese in multiple states, including Pennsylvania, during spring of 2013. This order, authorized by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in direct response to concerns about overabundant snow goose populations in Pennsylvania and North America, grants special opportunity to harvest snow geese this spring. Hunters statewide are permitted to take snow geese and Ross' geese through April 26, although the Middle Creek Wildlife Area's Waterfowl Migration Update on March 4 indicates that the migration north may begin early this year, as it did in 2012.