National Harvest Survey overview

Nature is at the heart of Canadian culture and a source of national pride. A survey conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (The Importance of Nature to Canadians: The Economic Significance of Nature-related Activities) reported that, in 1996 alone, Canadians and visitors to Canada spent $11 billion on nature-related activities. These included outdoor activities such as wildlife viewing, recreational fishing, and hunting. Although the number of hunters has been declining, hunting remains a significant traditional activity. Indeed, the survey revealed that about 5 percent of Canadians were active hunters, while twice as many were interested in participating.

The Migratory Birds Convention and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 give the federal government the responsibility to protect migratory birds. An important part of this responsibility is managing the hunting of migratory game birds such as ducks and geese. The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) assumes this task by proposing annual hunting seasons and bag limits for those species. These proposals, which are developed in cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments, are based on the latest scientific information about the numbers and health of each species. They are further refined through consultation with the public and other stakeholders.

Sound management of renewable resources such as migratory birds has to be based on scientific research and surveys. These provide necessary information on critical breeding and wintering habitats, population indices and trends, population structures, and other factors such as survival rates. In the case of migratory game birds, it is important to know the scale of hunting both to estimate its impact on populations and to assess how regulations will affect it.

In 1967, the CWS initiated the National Harvest Survey to gather some of the data needed to manage migratory bird species. The National Harvest Survey is the joint name for two surveys sent annually to a sample of purchasers of the Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit (MGBHP), introduced by the federal government in 1966. These two surveys are the Harvest Questionnaire Survey (HQS) and the Species Composition Survey (SCS). Data from these and other CWS surveys are used to assess the status of migratory game bird populations in Canada, their productivity, survival rates, and amount of harvest they can sustain.

The Harvest Questionnaire Survey is sent in the fall to approximately 45 000 randomly chosen hunters. It is used mainly to estimate the harvest of migratory game birds and hunting activity in Canada. A smaller group of hunters participates in the Species Composition Survey (or Wing and Tail Survey). Data from this survey are used, in combination with Harvest Questionnaire Survey data, to estimate the numbers that are hunted of each species of waterfowl and other game bird species, as well as the age and sex composition of the harvest. Hunters participating in this survey submit one wing from each duck and the tail of each goose that they shoot during the hunting season. These items are sent to CWS offices in specially designed wing envelopes. They are later sent to another location where the annual Wingbee is held. The Wingbee is the event where experts from CWS, representatives from other wildlife agencies, and the public gather to sort through wings and tail feathers sent by hunters.

Here is a more detailed description of survey methodology

Harvest Survey data

National Harvest Survey Office
National Wildlife Research Centre
Canadian Wildlife Service
1125 Colonel By Drive (Raven Road)
Ottawa ON K1A 0H3

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