Migratory Birds Regulations in Canada, July 2020

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2020/2021 and 2021/2022 Hunting Seasons

Canadian Wildlife Service Waterfowl Technical Committee

CWS Migratory Birds Regulatory Report Number 54

Document information 

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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, 2020

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For more information on migratory birds, please visit:

The Government of Canada's Migratory Birds website: Migratory bird conservation

Important note:

Canadians may be exposed to avian-borne viruses when birdwatching, hunting or handling migratory birds and other wild game. Environment and Climate Change Canada recommends the following website, maintained by the Public Health Agency of Canada, for information on minimizing the risk of exposure: Infectious diseases

Cover Art:

The 2019 Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp, entitled Blue — Canvasback, features the Canvasback. It is a creation of the Canadian wildlife artist Claude Thivierge.

Through a special partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada receives the revenues from the sale of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp, purchased primarily by waterfowl hunters to validate their Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permits. The conservation stamp is also sold to stamp and print collectors and those interested in contributing to habitat conservation. Wildlife Habitat Canada has provided over $55 million in grants to more than 1,500 habitat conservation projects across Canada since the development of the program in 1985. In 2020/2021, Wildlife Habitat Canada is providing grants to 32 projects across Canada, totalling approximately $1,182,000.

For more information on Wildlife Habitat Canada or the conservation stamp and print program, please call Wildlife Habitat Canada at 613-722-2090 (in the Ottawa region) or toll-free at 1-800-669-7919, or consult the website at Wildlife Habitat Canada.

Author:

This report was prepared by the Canadian Wildlife Service Waterfowl Technical Committee, and edited by Renée Bergeron and Bethany Thurber in the Wildlife Management and Regulatory Affairs Division of the National Office of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Recommended citation for this report:

Canadian Wildlife Service Waterfowl Committee. 2020. Migratory Birds Regulations in Canada, July 2020. 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 Hunting Seasons. CWS Migratory Birds Regulatory Report Number 54. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa.

Comments:

Comments regarding the regulation-setting process or other concerns relating to national migratory birds should be sent to the Canadian Wildlife Service, Wildlife Management and Regulatory Affairs Division:

Director, Wildlife Management and Regulatory Affairs Division
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Ottawa ON K1A 0H3

Email: ec.scf-oismiggibiers-cws-miggamebirds.ec@canada.ca

Region-specific comments should be sent to the appropriate Regional Director, Regional Operations, Canadian Wildlife Service, at the following postal addresses:

Atlantic Region:
17 Waterfowl Lane
P.O. Box 6227
Sackville NB E4L 1G6

Quebec Region:
801–1550 d’Estimauville Avenue
Québec QC G1J 0C3

Ontario Region:
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON M3H 5T4

Prairie Region:
9250 - 49th Street NW 2nd Floor
Edmonton AB  T6B 1K5

Northern Region:
5019 - 52nd Street
P.O. Box 2310
Yellowknife NT X1A 2P7

Pacific Region:
RR1 5421 Robertson Road
Delta BC  V4K 3N2

This report may be downloaded from the following website: Migratory birds regulatory report series

Background

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is responsible for the conservation of migratory birds in Canada and the management of the sustainable hunting of these birds. The hunting regulations for migratory game birds are reviewed and amended biennially by ECCC, with input from provinces and territories, as well as from various other stakeholders. The population status of migratory game birds is assessed on an annual basis to ensure that the regulations are appropriate, and amendments can be made between review periods, if necessary, for conservation reasons.

As part of the regulatory process to amend the hunting regulations, the ECCC’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) produces a series of regulatory reports:

The first report, Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada, contains population and other biological information on migratory game birds and thus provides the scientific basis for informing management decisions that ensure the long-term sustainability of their population. Every two years, ECCC reviews hunting regulations and publishes the population status report. However, CWS analyzes population trends on a yearly basis to evaluate the status of migratory game bird populations.

The second report, Proposals to Amend the Canadian Migratory Birds Regulations, outlines the proposed changes to the hunting regulations for the next two hunting seasons, as well as proposals to amend the overabundant species regulations and sometimes, proposed amendments to the Migratory Birds Regulations. Proposals for hunting regulations are developed in accordance with the Objectives and Guidelines for the Establishment of National Regulations for Migratory Game Bird Hunting (Establishing national regulations for migratory game bird hunting: objectives and guidelines). This report is published every second year, concurrently with the revision of hunting regulations.

The third report, Migratory Birds Regulations in Canada, summarizes the hunting regulations that were approved for the next two hunting seasons. The report is published every second year, concurrently with the revision of hunting regulations.

The three reports are distributed to organizations and individuals, with an interest in migratory bird conservation, to provide an opportunity for input on the development of hunting regulations in Canada. They are also available on the ECCC website: Migratory birds regulatory report series.

The process for developing regulations in Canada requires that any changes be in the form of final proposals by late February during years of regulatory changes. That means that regulations must be set without knowing about the breeding conditions and production forecasts of the coming year. This does not usually present difficulties because the hunting regulations are based on trends over several years, but in some cases the results from recent harvest surveys or breeding population surveys conducted in May and June will indicate that changes in the national approach are needed to ensure the conservation of migratory game birds. In this case, ECCC will process a regulatory amendment and issue a bulletin updating these regulations.

Regulatory changes described in the current document will start in September 2020 and remain in effect for two hunting seasons (fall 2020/winter 2021, fall 2021/winter 2022). Special conservation measures are also established for overabundant geese in spring 2021 and spring 2022.

Schedule for the Development of Hunting Regulations within each Regulatory Cycle

The schedule for the development of hunting regulations is based on the requirement to have the hunting regulations made into law by mid-June:

Migratory game bird hunters are made aware of the migratory game bird hunting regulations at the same time as they receive information on season dates and bag and possession limits, when they purchase their hunting permits.

American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy (the Strategy) was adopted in 2012 by the CWS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The objectives of the Strategy, based on the principles of adaptive harvest management, are to:

As such, the Strategy is designed to identify appropriate Black Duck harvest levels in Canada and the U.S. based on the size of the breeding population of Black Ducks and sympatric Mallards while maintaining equity in Black Duck harvests between the two countries. However, recognizing incomplete control of harvest through regulations, it allows the realized harvest in either country to vary between 40% and 60% of the annual continental harvest.

The Strategy, used to determine the appropriate Black Duck harvest regulations, was first implemented in 2013 to 2014. It consists of four pre-defined regulatory packages in Canada and three in the United States. Country-specific harvest opportunities are determined from a set of expected harvest rate distributions defined as regulatory alternatives. Canada developed four regulatory packages (liberal, moderate, restrictive and closed) with the Canadian moderate alternative defined as the 1997 to 2010 mean harvest rate (the reference package). The Canadian packages are as follows:

The optimal Canadian policy recommendation for the 2020/2021 hunting season is the continuation of the liberal regulatory package. This recommendation is based on long-term trends in Black Duck and Mallard breeding populations in eastern Canada as well as the estimated effects of hunting on Black Duck populations. Mallards are included in the Strategy because this species hybridizes and competes with Black Ducks on the breeding grounds and may therefore negatively affect the Black Duck population. According to data collected by the CWS and USFWS, the current level of harvest has only a low effect on population levels. The liberal package is therefore the optimal alternative.

Each regulatory package, however, must be implemented for at least two years before changes to the regulatory package will be considered, due to variability in annual harvest rates. In the interim, CWS will continue to monitor harvest rate in addition to the breeding population to ensure that the Strategy continues to meet the objectives stated above.

2019 Fall ECCC Regional Stakeholder Meetings Regarding the Hunting Regulation for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 Seasons

In the end of summer or fall of 2019, biologists from ECCC met with their provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as other stakeholders, in technical committees to discuss new information on the status of migratory game bird populations, and how it compares to annual trends. These regional technical committees used survey information from national and international bird population surveys, species-specific studies, and information received from migratory game bird hunters and non-government organizations to identify concerns with population levels of migratory game bird species. In order to address these concerns and ensure a sustainable harvest for migratory game birds, hunting season dates, daily bag limits, possession limits, and hunting zones require adjustment for certain species for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 hunting seasons.

Summary of the Comments Received during Public Consultations held in winter 2020 Regarding the Hunting Regulations for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 Seasons

During the public consultation period between January 18 and February 16, 2020, the Department of the Environment received more than 200 comments. Comments were submitted by national and provincial hunting and conservation organizations, Indigenous Nations, hunters and individuals interested in migratory bird conservation. In general, comments were supportive of the proposed changes to the Migratory Birds Regulations (the MBRs or the Regulations) for the next two hunting seasons. The proposal to establish a hunting season for Sandhill Crane in Alberta received mixed comments.

Country wide

Large national and provincial hunting organization as well as many hunters expressed their support for the proposed changes across the country. They also offered some suggestions for the next round of amendments to the MBRs. These suggestions will be carefully examined and considered by the Department and discussed at the next regional waterfowl stakeholder meetings.

Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec

One hunting organization indicated their support of the American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy as they were in favour of the addition of hunting opportunities. However, a local hunting organization indicated their opposition, suggesting that a liberal regime will hurt declining populations of American Black Ducks and Mallards.

The American Black Duck population has been relatively stable since the 1990s. The most recent results from the Black Duck population model indicate that at the current level of hunting, harvest is not affecting annual Black Duck survival at the population level. If liberalization of the hunting regulations in the United States or Canada causes the population to decline, those signals will be detected through annual monitoring programs and appropriate regulatory changes will be made to ensure that Black Duck harvest remains sustainable over the long term.

Newfoundland

Two provincial hunting organizations expressed their support for the proposed changes regarding mergansers.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

A provincial hunting organization expressed its support for the proposed harvest restrictions on eiders. However, one hunter was opposed stating that this proposal was not based in science, but rather, on a long-term monitoring program that suggests that the breeding population is declining.

The decline in Eider population has been observed during both the winter population surveys and the colonies monitoring programs. The population decline has also been further substantiated by hunters and hunting outfitters in the region. The exact cause for the observed declines has not been identified yet but investigation is under way. The amendments were introduced as a precautionary measure and developed with input from hunting organizations.

Quebec

One hunter expressed concern regarding the proposal to restrict the harvest of the Atlantic population of Canada Geese. He questioned whether hunting is an effective tool for managing populations and indicated that the reduction in hunting opportunities that would come from this change would discourage people from taking up hunting as a sport.

The amendment aims to protect the Atlantic population of Canada goose, which nests in the Ungava Peninsula in northern Quebec. The restriction would be effective in October only when the Atlantic population migrates through the province. It has been demonstrated that mortality by hunting has a significant effect on the size of the breeding population. Indeed, in 1995, hunting was closed in response to a significant decline in the population. Following this temporary closure, the population increased to the 1980s level, and above in early 2000 and remained relatively stable until the 2010s. Surveys during the nesting seasons have shown that the survival rate of adults has been decreasing since 2010, while the harvest rate of adults and young has increased during the same period, and population decreases have been observed. This information indicates that measures are necessary to maintain the population. In Quebec and Ontario as well as in the United States, regulatory measures are being implemented to restrict harvest to ensure sustainability of the population and avoid a complete closure of hunting seasons.

Ontario

The largest provincial hunting organization as well as a national hunting organization supported all Ontario proposals, citing a range of benefits for each change that included the simplification of regulations, increased hunting opportunities, and increased ability to manage overabundant species. Both organizations support the increased harvest of Canada Geese in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 94 (from 2 to 3 geese in the daily bag limit). The provincial hunting organization questioned although whether the effect of increasing the bag limit to 4 was appropriately modelled and noted that they hoped the change was not made to simplify the administration of these regulations. Finally, they re-iterated their wish for the creation of a Sandhill Crane hunting season in Ontario.

During the Ontario Waterfowl Advisory Committee meetings with stakeholders in 2018 and 2019, ECCC discussed the possibility of increasing the daily bag limit of Canada Geese in southern Ontario from 2 to 3 in WMU 94. Members agreed. The increase in daily bag limits from 2 to 3 was also consistent with those in adjacent jurisdictions in the United States (as per the Mississippi Flyway Canada Goose Management Plan) and with the daily bag limit of Canada Geese during restricted periods in other WMUs in Ontario. The banding of temperate-breeding Canada Geese in WMU 94 has been increased over the last few years to improve the monitoring of Goose harvest in this WMU and across the province to inform the Canada Goose hunting regulations in the future.

With respect to the request for a mid-continent Sandhill Crane hunting season, ECCC carefully considered this request and it was determined that further consideration and discussions would be needed. As such, future discussions will occur with the province and stakeholders.

Manitoba

A large national hunting organization and two individuals were supportive of the designation of the temperate-breeding Canada Geese as overabundant in southern Manitoba, as this would benefit agricultural producers.

Saskatchewan and Alberta

A large national hunting organization supported the increase of bag and possession limits for Northern Pintail, indicating that this would increase hunting opportunities while aligning with regulations already in place in Manitoba. However, a conservation organization was opposed to this change, and suggested that it is premature to increase bag and possession limits without understanding the cause of the decline and lack of recovery. The organization went on to say that restrictions did not seem to affect hunters in Saskatchewan and increasing again will probably not increase hunter participation.

Historically, major declines of Northern Pintail populations have not been related to declines in juvenile or adult survival rates (Rice et al. 2010, Bartzen and Dufour 2017). Over a 55 year-period, Bartzen and Dufour (2017) found no evidence that harvest mortality of Northern Pintails from Prairie Canada was substantially additive to non-harvest mortality.  Furthermore, there was no increase in harvest rates in the 2018-19 hunting season that coincided with the decrease in population of Northern Pintails in the spring of 2019. In all likelihood, the decline of Northern Pintails in Prairie Canada observed in 2019 was related to dry habitat conditions; this is further supported by an increase in Northern Pintails in parts of the U.S. prairies that were exceptionally wet. Although a slight increase in harvest of Northern Pintails, approximately 5%, is predicted for Saskatchewan and Alberta with removal of the bag limit restriction for Northern Pintails, the increase is estimated to be negligible at the continental level. Although removing this restriction may not increase hunter participation rates, it would eliminate a regulatory requirement that has no demonstrated conservation benefit but potentially deters and penalizes hunters who have difficulty identifying ducks early in hunting season.  Harvest estimates from Canada’s National Harvest Survey, harvest and survival rates derived from banding efforts, and population abundance from the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey will all be closely monitored for potential effects of this regulatory change and changes to bag limits will be made if warranted.  However, risks to the population from this change to bag limits are low.

Reference no. 1

Bartzen, B. A., and K. W. Dufour. 2017. Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) survival, recovery, and harvest rates derived from 55 years of banding in Prairie Canada, 1960–2014. Avian Conservation and Ecology 12(2):7.

Rice, M. B., D. A. Haukos, J. A. Dubovsky and M. C. Runge. 2010. Continental survival and recovery rates of northern pintails using band-recovery data. Journal of Wildlife Management 74:778-787.

Alberta

Sandhill Crane Open Season

The majority of all comments received (80%) were directly related to the proposed establishment of a Sandhill Crane season in Alberta. Forty percent of those who commented on this proposal, including provincial and national hunting organizations, were in favour. They cited multiple benefits, including economic benefits for Alberta’s wildlife through increased spending on licenses, potential for increased tourism and, therefore, boosts to local economies, and more hunting opportunities. Some contributors indicated that this species can be easily distinguished from other similarly sized species like the Whooping Crane, as has been demonstrated by hunters in other provinces in which a Sandhill Crane hunt has already been established. Some individuals expressed their disappointment about the fact that northern portion of the province was excluded from the hunt. Sixty percent of those who commented were opposed, which included non-governmental organizations and individuals. The most common concerns were related to hunters mistaking the endangered Whooping Crane for Sandhill Crane and that the species is a beautiful, iconic prairie bird. Other concerns included the fact that the Sandhill Crane population is already facing pressures through habitat loss and climate change; given the slow reproduction time, the addition of hunting pressures could cause population declines. Others questioned the scientific evidence that supports the sustainability of this hunt or indicated that the species was not now, or likely to in the future, overpopulating the province, so there was no reason to initiate a hunt. Many contributors suggested that there are already enough hunting opportunities.

The new hunting season for Sandhill Cranes in Alberta is consistent with guidelines described in the most recent management plan for the mid-continent population of Sandhill Cranes (Central Flyway Council 2018). The 3-year average spring index of this population was 840,000 birds in 2019, well above the management objective of 350,000 to 475,000 cranes. Addition of a hunting season in some portions of Alberta is expected to add less than 5% to the continental harvest (roughly equivalent to the harvest in Manitoba), and population trends and harvest will continue to be monitored to ensure that any additional harvest is sustainable.

The hunting area for the new hunting season of Sandhill Cranes within Alberta was intentionally conservative and chosen to avoid overlap with migrating Whooping Cranes. Although occurrence of Whooping Cranes within the hunting area is possible, recent research shows it is rare (Pearce et al. 2018). In contrast, Sandhill Cranes are more likely to overlap with Whooping cranes in areas to the north, particularly in northeastern Alberta. Although the risk to both populations is believed to be low, caution will be used until some experience is gained with Sandhill Crane hunting seasons in Alberta, and additional supporting data are available.

Descriptions of Whooping Cranes will be included in the provincial hunting summaries, along with instructions for differentiating them from Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes. Sandhill Crane hunting has occurred in Saskatchewan for many years without any detrimental effects to Whooping Crane populations, even though migration routes of the 2 species overlap throughout much of the province.

Reference no. 2

Central Flyway Council. 2018.  Management guidelines for the mid-continent population of Sandhill cranes. 46 pp.

Pearse, A.T., Rabbe, M., Juliusson, L.M., Bidwell, M.T., Craig-Moore, L., Brandt, D.A., and Harrell, W. 2018. Delineating and identifying long-term changes in the whooping crane (Grus americana) migration corridor. PLoS ONE 13:e0192737.

Hunting zones

Three individuals including a hunter commented on the proposal to simplify hunting zones in Alberta. The individuals in support of the change indicated that the simplification should increase clarity in the regulations about bag limits and open season dates and will reduce confusion about the regulations. The individual that was opposed to the change stated that reducing the number of zones from 8 to 2 will not result in a material simplification, as hunters will still need to consult the regulations specific to their desired zone. This individual also argued that precise changes in hunting regulations will be more difficult to implement in the future as a result.

Essentially, provincial hunting regulations have been operating on a two-zone format for many years. The northern sector, which includes Zones 1,2,3,4 and 8, opens September 1 and the southern sector, which includes Zones 5, 6 and 7, opens a week later. Bag and possession limits are identical in northern and southern sectors. The province lists hunting seasons in their regulations by Provincial Wildlife Management Unit (PWMU), so this change will not affect hunting seasons in any way. The amendment will simplify migratory game bird hunting requirements for hunters in Alberta.

Migratory Game Birds Hunting Regulations for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 Seasons (including special conservation measures for overabundant species)

CWS has jointly developed the hunting regulation amendments presented here in consultation with the provinces and territories, other countries such as the U.S., and a range of other interested stakeholders, including hunter organizations, Indigenous Peoples of Canada and conservation groups. They were approved by Cabinet and published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on July 8, 2020.

The following section summarizes the hunting regulations amendments by province and territory during this regulatory cycle.

The complete set of regulations that will be in effect in fall 2020 and winter/spring 2021 are contained in the Appendix (Migratory Birds Hunting Regulations Summaries) and posted on the Government of Canada’s website:Hunting regulations for migratory birds: provincial and territorial summaries 2020 to 2021.

Newfoundland and Labrador

American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy's recommendation

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy continues to be implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador. A liberal regime is in effect for the 2020/2021 hunting season. There was no change to Black Duck bag limits in Newfoundland and Labrador. The liberal regulatory package will also be implemented for the 2021/2022 Black Duck hunting season.

A liberal harvest regime is also in effect for the 2020/2021 Black Duck hunting season in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.

Changes to common and red-breasted mergansers hunting season open dates on the island of Newfoundland

The opening date for Common and Red-Breasted mergansers on the Island of Newfoundland has been postponed by three weeks to begin on the fixed date of October 10 (formerly on the third Saturday in September). This change was requested by individual hunters and waterfowl hunting organizations in Newfoundland, and will provide hunting opportunities when these species are more commonly encountered. Harvest of both merganser species is low relative to the population size. As a result, there is no conservation concern with the introduction of this measure.

Establishment of Separate Bag and Possession Limits for Common and Red-Breasted Mergansers in Labrador

A separate bag limit of six has been established for Common and Red-breasted mergansers in Labrador. Given that that number of hunters and levels of harvest are relatively low for these two species in this jurisdiction, there are no anticipated conservation concerns associated with the change in bag limit. This change was requested by individual hunters and hunter organization, and allows additional opportunity to harvest and possess Common and Red-Breasted mergansers.

Consolidation of inland zones on the island of Newfoundland

Three Inland Zones (Avalon-Burin, Northern and Southern) have been consolidated into a single Inland Zone. Regulations for these zones have been identical for more than twenty years; this change simplifies the Regulations with no effect on hunters.

Prince Edward Island

American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy's recommendation

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy continues to be implemented in Prince Edward Island. A liberal regime is in effect for the 2020/2021 hunting season. There is no change to Black Duck bag limit in Prince Edward Island. The liberal regulatory package will also be implemented for the 2021/2022 Black Duck hunting season.

A liberal harvest regime is also in effect for the 2020/2021 Black Duck hunting season in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.

Nova Scotia

American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy's recommendation

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy continues to be implemented in Nova Scotia. A liberal regime is in effect for the 2020/2021 hunting season. There is no change to Black Duck bag limit in Nova Scotia. The liberal regulatory package will be implemented for the 2021/2022 Black Duck hunting season.

A liberal harvest regime is also in effect for the 2020/2021 Black Duck hunting season in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.

Harvest Restrictions for eiders

Daily bag and possession limits have been restricted for eiders in Nova Scotia. The daily bag limit was reduced from four to two (no more than one of which may be a female) with a possession limit of four (formerly eight). In addition, the season length was reduced to 60 days in all zones, which represents a reduction in opportunity of 39 days in Hunting Zone No. 1, and 40 days in Hunting Zone No. 2. These restrictions have been implemented in response to growing concerns for American Common Eiders breeding in the Maritimes and the New England states. Long-term monitoring of eider colonies suggests that the number of eiders breeding in New Brunswick have been declining over the past 10+ years. Surveys in Maine and Nova Scotia suggest similar declining trends for these areas. Similar season length and bag limit reductions are being implemented for New Brunswick.

Consolidation of Inland Hunting Zones

Two of the three Hunting Zones (Zone No. 2 and Zone No. 3) have been consolidated into a single Zone (Zone No. 2). Regulations for the consolidated zones have been identical since 2012; the change simplifies the Regulations for hunters with no effect on conservation.

New Brunswick

American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy's recommendation

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy continues to be implemented in New Brunswick. A liberal regime is in effect for the 2020/2021 hunting season. There is no change to Black Duck bag limit in New Brunswick. The liberal regulatory package will also be implemented for the 2021/2022 Black Duck hunting season.

A liberal harvest regime is also in effect for the 2020/2021 Black Duck hunting season in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.

Harvest Restrictions for eiders

Daily bag and possession limits have been restricted for eiders in New Brunswick. The daily bag limit has been reduced from four to two (no more than one of which may be a female) with a possession of four (formerly eight). In addition, the season length has been reduced to 60 days in all zones, which represents a reduction in opportunity of 46 days in Zone No. 1, and 19 days in Zone No. 2. As well, the harvest of eiders is not permitted during the February sea duck season in Zone 1. These restrictions are implemented in response to growing concerns for American Common Eiders breeding in the Maritimes and the New England states. Long-term monitoring of eider colonies suggests that the number of eiders breeding in New Brunswick have been declining over the past 10+ years. Surveys in Maine and Nova Scotia suggest similar declining trends for these areas. Similar measures are being implemented for Nova Scotia.

Quebec

American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy's recommendation

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy continues to be implemented in Quebec. A liberal regime is in effect for the 2020/2021 hunting season. There is no change to Black Duck bag limit in Quebec. The liberal regulatory package will also be implemented for the 2021/2022 Black Duck hunting season.

A liberal harvest regime is also in effect for the 2020/2021 Black Duck hunting season in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Ontario.

Harvest Restrictions on Atlantic Population of Canada geese

The daily bag limit for Canada and Cackling geese during peak migration in most hunting districts in Quebec has been decreased. This is to address conservation concerns related to observed declines in the breeding population of Atlantic Canada Geese. The following restrictions have been implemented:

In Districts A, C, and the portion of District F that is west of Highway 15 and its northerly extension consisting of Route 117, the daily bag limit is restricted to three Canada/Cackling geese combined (from 5) from September 26 to October 31. After this period, the bag limit returns to five until the end of the season.

In District D and the portion of District F that is east of Highway 15 and its northerly extension consisting of Route 117, the daily bag limit is restricted to two Canada/Cackling geese combined (from five) from September 26 to October 31. After this period, the bag limit returns to five until the end of the season.

Canada/Cackling geese are no longer included in the former "Geese (other than Snow Geese)" group and are now considered their own group. This change prevents confusion introduced by changing the daily bag limit for Canada/Cackling geese twice over the season. Daily bag and possession limits for the different groups of geese are as follows:

Daily bag and possession limits for geese
Limit Canada Geese and Cackling Geese (combined) Snow Geese Other Geese (combined)
Daily bag limit
  • Starting September 1: 10
  • Starting September 26: 5/3/2
    (depending on the District)
  • Starting November 1: 5
20 5
Possession limit No limit No limit 15

To account for the removal of Canada Geese from the general "Other Geese" group, the possession limit has been lowered to 15 birds (from 20).

Similar measures are being implemented for Ontario.

Ontario

American Black Duck international harvest strategy's recommendation

The American Black Duck International Harvest Strategy continues to be implemented in Ontario. A liberal regime is in effect for the 2020/2021 hunting season. There are no changes to the hunting season length or daily bag limit of American Black Ducks in Ontario. The liberal regulatory package will also be implemented for the 2021/2022 hunting season.

A liberal harvest regime is also in effect for the 2020/2021 Black Duck hunting season in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

Harmonize possession limits for migratory game birds across Ontario

Possession limit restrictions have been removed for all migratory game birds in Ontario, except for species at risk. Based on an analysis in 2011, ECCC’s Waterfowl Technical Committee examined species possession limits in relation to migratory game bird conservation and management. From this review, it was concluded that the daily bag limit (and not possession limit) was an important factor in managing harvest. The only exceptions may apply to species at risk, or other species of conservation concern, when possession limits may play a role. As such, possession limits have been standardized to three times the daily bag limit for either: (1) each species, when identified separately, or (2) the aggregate, when species are combined (e.g., ducks, geese or rails). In that respect, possession limits for American Black Duck have been increased from six to 18 in the Southern District and from 12 to 18 in the other Districts. Possession limits for gallinules and coots have been increased from 12 to 30 and from 24 to 30 respectively. Currently, the only species at risk in Ontario with an open hunting season is Barrow’s Goldeneye and, therefore, the possession limit restriction (one bird) is applied as a precautionary measure. This change simplifies the Regulations for hunters with no effect on the conservation of migratory game birds.

Harmonize open season dates among goose aggregates in the northern and central hunting districts

Opening dates for all geese seasons have been harmonized in the Northern and Central Hunting Districts; the opening date is September 1 and the season closes on December 16. The hunting season for Canada Geese and Cackling Geese was opening earlier than other geese, such as Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese, which was opening at the same time as ducks, rails and snipe on September 10. This change provides hunters with an opportunity to harvest these species during the Canada/Cackling goose hunting season and simplifies the Regulations for hunters.

Increase harvest of Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese in the southern hunting district

Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose harvest is now allowed during the late February/early March hunting season for Canada Geese and Cackling Geese in municipalities where Sunday hunting is not permitted by provincial regulations. This change does not apply to Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 94.

The geographical coverage of the spring conservation measures concerning overabundant species (i.e., March 1 to May 31) has been expanded to include farmlands in the following WMUs in the Southern Hunting District: 66, 67 and 69B, in addition to 65.

Both of these changes increase harvest potential and support ongoing efforts to reduce the size of the population of these species in Ontario.

Increase opportunity to harvest Canada Geese in Wildlife Management Unit 94 in the Southern Hunting District

The daily bag limit of Canada Geese and Cackling Geese has been increased from two to three in WMU 94 during the regular goose hunting season. Hunting restrictions on Canada Geese and Cackling Geese in WMU 94 were put in place to prevent the overharvesting of the Southern Hudson Bay Population (SHBP) of Canada Geese. This change harmonizes the daily bag limit restriction (i.e., three geese per day) in adjacent WMUs in Ontario and surrounding Great Lakes states and allows for increased harvest of temperate-breeding Canada Geese in this WMU.

Restrictions on the Atlantic Population of Canada Geese in Wildlife Management Unit 65 in the Southern Hunting District

The daily bag limit for the Atlantic Population (AP) of Canada Geese has been decreased from five to three, in Wildlife Management 65 in the Southern District, during peak migration in response to concerns over declines in the number of breeding AP Canada Geese. The Canadian Wildlife Service identified the peak migration of AP Canada Geese through Ontario as occurring between the end of September and end of October. As per the current AP Canada Goose Harvest Strategy, a restrictive package has been implemented in Canada and the United States when the 3-year average number of breeding geese is below 150,000 pairs; the last 3-year average was 130,971 breeding pairs. Hunters in WMU 65 harvest the majority of AP Canada Geese in Ontario. To standardize the three bird daily bag limit restriction dates across Ontario, the daily bag limit restriction begins on the fourth Saturday of September (opening day for the regular goose hunting season) and continues for 35 days.

Similar measures are being implemented for Quebec.

Administrative Change to Restriction Dates for the Daily Bag Limit of Canada Geese and Cackling Geese Across Ontario

The standard daily bag limit for Canada Geese and Cackling geese is five. However, there were restrictions in some areas at specific times during the open season; because these restrictions are set from a specific day, week and month (e.g., fourth Saturday in September) and end on a fixed calendar date (e.g., October 31), the season length for the restrictions varied from one year to another. Accordingly, season length has been standardized when restrictions occur 35 days starting from the opening day of the regular Canada/Cackling geese hunting season. This change simplifies the Regulations and makes the season length more predictable. This change affects the daily bag limit restriction dates in Wildlife Management Units 82, 84, 85, 93 and 65.

Manitoba

Designation of temperate-breeding Canada Geese as overabundant in southern Manitoba

The temperate-breeding Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in southern Manitoba Game Bird Hunting Zones (GBHZ) 3 and 4 have been designated as overabundant. An overabundant population is one for which the rate of population growth has resulted in, or will result in, a population whose abundance directly threatens the conservation of migratory birds (themselves or others) or their habitats, or is injurious to or threatens agricultural, environmental or other similar interests. In Manitoba, temperate-breeding Canada Geese are causing significant agricultural and private property damage, pose aesthetic concerns, as well as risks to human safety via aircraft and vehicle collisions.

Accordingly, a spring conservation season has been established for temperate-breeding Canada Geese in GBHZs 3 and 4 from March 1 to March 31, beginning in 2021. The season is open to resident and non-residents of Canada, with a daily bag limit of 8 and a possession limit of 24. Consequently, the March 1-10 season for residents of Canada has been abolished.

Effective 2021, the use of electronic bird calls of Canada Geese is permitted throughout the spring conservation season, March 1 to 31.

Given that the current temperate-breeding population of the species in Manitoba is three times greater than the population objective set in the 1990s and because hunting is considered the most efficient means to reduce population size, these changes are imposed to limit population growth. At the current annual rate, this population is expected to double every eight years and is likely nearing the threshold where even the most liberal of regulatory changes will not invoke the increases in harvest required to control a large population. The effect of this conservation season will be monitored using estimates of annual survival and harvest rates, which are a result of long term banding programs in place for each population. In addition, overall harvest and hunter participation will be monitored using a spring license issued by Manitoba Wildlife and Fisheries Branch, and the population will be monitored using data from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey.

Saskatchewan

Increasing daily bag and possession limits of Northern Pintails

The daily bag limit for Northern Pintails has been increased from four to eight and possession limits have been increased from 12 to 24. Removing the separate bag limit for pintails simplifies the Regulations by allowing an aggregate bag limit of eight ducks, given that ducks can be difficult to identify early in the hunting season because male ducks are still in drab eclipse plumage. A similar change has been put in place in Alberta.

The effect of removing the daily bag limit restriction for Northern Pintails in Alberta and Saskatchewan on harvest in Canada is expected to be negligible, based on the fact that harvest rates declined throughout much of the 1980s but have gradually increased since the early 1990s despite harvest restrictions remaining in place, with little risk of causing the population to decline further. Harvest estimates from Canada’s National Harvest Survey, harvest and survival rates derived from banding efforts, and population abundance from the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey will all be monitored for potential effects of this regulation change.

Open Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife area to Sandhill Crane Hunting

Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area is now open to Sandhill Crane hunting. This change makes the hunting of migratory game birds in Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area consistent with other areas in Saskatchewan where the hunting of migratory game birds is permitted, including most other National Wildlife Areas. Part of the original intent of the closure was for the protection of Whooping Cranes during migration. However, there are areas outside of the National Wildlife Area open to Sandhill Crane hunting that are more frequently used by Whooping Cranes and in greater abundance. In addition, the hunting of other migratory game birds is already permitted within the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area. Similar to other areas of Saskatchewan, Federal or Provincial game officers have the ability to prohibit Sandhill Crane hunting when Whooping Cranes are present. Therefore, the risk to Whooping Cranes is minimal.

Alberta

Simplify hunting zones in Alberta

The number of hunting zones has been reduced from eight to two (Figure 1). The former zones 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 are now zone 1 (northern zone), while the former zones 5, 6 and 7 are now zone 2 (southern zone). Essentially, provincial hunting regulations had been operating on a two-zone format for many years. The northern zone, which includes the former zones 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8, opens September 1st and the southern zone, which includes the former zones 5, 6 and 7, opens one week later. Bag and possession limits are identical in northern and southern zones. The province lists hunting seasons in their regulations by Provincial Wildlife Management Unit (PWMU), so this change would not affect hunting seasons. The map below shows the new two-zone format (with PWMUs). This change simplifies migratory game bird hunting regulations for hunters in Alberta.

Figure 1, see long description
Figure 1. New hunting zones in Alberta
Long description 

The number of hunting zones has been reduced from eight to two. The former zones 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 are now zone 1 (northern zone), while the former zones 5, 6 and 7 are now zone 2 (southern zone).

Increasing the daily bag and possession limits of Northern Pintails

The daily bag limit for Northern Pintails is increased from four to eight and possession limits are increased from 12 to 24. Removing the separate bag limit for pintails simplifies the Regulations by allowing an aggregate bag limit of eight ducks, given that ducks can be difficult to identify early in the hunting season because male ducks are still in drab eclipse plumage. Likewise, the effect of removing the daily bag limit restriction for Northern Pintails in Alberta and Saskatchewan on harvest in Canada is expected to be negligible, based on the fact that harvest rates declined throughout much of the 1980s but have gradually increased since the early 1990s despite harvest restrictions remaining in place, with little risk of causing the population to decline further in abundance. Harvest estimates from Canada’s National Harvest Survey, harvest and survival rates derived from banding efforts, and population abundance from the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey will all be monitored for potential effects of this regulation change.

Establishing a hunting season for Sandhill Crane

A hunting season for Sandhill Crane has been established in Alberta (Figure 2). The daily bag limit is five and possession limit 15. The season will open on September 1 and close on December 16 in Provincial Wildlife Management Units (PWMUs) 200, 202, 203, 204, 206, 208, 220, 222, 226, 228, 230, 232, 234, 236, 238, 240, 242, 244, 248, 250, 252, 254, 256, 258, 260, and 500. In PWMUs 102, 104, 106, 112, 116, 118, 119, 124, 128, 130, 132, 134, 136, 138, 140, 142, 144, 148, 150, 151, 152, 156, 158, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166 and 210, the season length will be from September 8 to December 21.

These hunting season dates are consistent with existing dates for hunting waterfowl in these PWMUs. Selected PWMUs were chosen to avoid known Whooping Crane migratory routes.  Additionally, Whooping Crane descriptions are currently published online and in Alberta’s guide to hunting regulations. Educating hunters to differences between Whooping Cranes and Snow Geese has been done for several years and will be amended to also include Sandhill Cranes. If the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population of Whooping Cranes occurs in an area open to Sandhill Crane hunting, risk will be assessed and measures taken to protect them by altering hunting areas in the future.

Figure 2. Long description
Figure 2. Provincial Management Units for Sandhill Crane hunting in Alberta
Long description 

All Provincial Management Units where Sandhill Crane hunting is allowed in Alberta

Current aerial population monitoring data show that the Sandhill Crane population has been increasing since 1982. Likewise, the latest 3-year average (2016–2018) of 659,899 birds is above mid-continent population management plan objectives of 349,000 to 472,000 birds. As the current mid-continent population (3-year average) has shown a 52% increase since the 3-year average calculated in 2000, and is 40% above its maximum population threshold, the addition of this hunting season in Alberta is expected to increase Canada’s estimated harvest by less than 5%, which is well below suggested management targets.

The Sandhill Crane season provides a new hunting opportunity in Alberta and a mechanism to deal with crop depredation issues caused by cranes. This has been the subject of repeated requests by both resident and non-resident hunters as well as Alberta agricultural producers.

British Columbia

Increase opportunity to harvest waterfowl

The hunting season dates for ducks, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese and White-fronted Geese in Region 8 (the Okanagan) are shifted from September 12 till December 25 to September 23 till January 5. This provides more hunting opportunities when these species are most plentiful in the Okanagan.

Yukon

No regulatory changes have been made for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 hunting seasons.

Northwest Territories

No regulatory changes have been made for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 hunting seasons.

Nunavut

Increase in possession limits for ducks, geese and snipe

The possession limit for non-residents of Canada is increased from twice the daily bag limit to three times the daily bag limit for ducks, Canada and Cackling geese, White-fronted Geese and Brant. This represents an increase from 16 to 24 for ducks and from 10 to 15 for Canada Geese, Cackling Geese, White-fronted Geese and Brant in aggregate, of which not more than six can be White-fronted Geese (formerly four).

The possession limit for non-residents of Canada is increased from 20 to 30 for snipe. This is to increase limit consistency with surrounding Provinces (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec).

There are no anticipated conservation concerns or implications associated with the changes in possession limits for these species.

Increase in daily bag limits for Snow and Ross' Geese in James Bay

The daily bag limit have been increased from 20 to 50 for Snow and Ross's geese across Nunavut.

Due to habitat damage as a result of foraging, Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese were designated as overabundant species few years ago. Geese using the islands and waters of James Bay are from the midcontinent population of Lesser Snow Geese, which has continued to increase despite the implementation of more liberalized bag and possession limits. Therefore, rather than limiting daily harvest in any one portion of the Territory, hunting opportunities are maximized across the Territory. The James Bay area of Quebec has a daily bag limit of 20 Snow Geese, but the harvest in that area of Quebec is mainly composed of Greater Snow Geese, which are closer to population objectives, as opposed to midcontinent Lesser Snow Geese.

Status update on modernization of Migratory Birds Regulations

Drafted in 1917, the Migratory Birds Regulations have never been comprehensively updated or revised. As such, the Department is currently undertaking the process of amending the Regulations to update the language to modern standards, correct errors, restructure the regulations for clarity, address enforcement issues, and clarify the provisions relating to the management of migratory bird hunting. The amendments also include references to Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (implementation of the Parksville Protocol to the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States).

Pre-consultations on the proposed amendments were conducted in 2014. Later, consultations related to baiting for the purpose of hunting were held in 2017. Finally, the proposed new regulations were published in the Canada Gazette Part I in June 2019 for a 120-day period consultation. The comments received during these consultations were carefully considered.

It is anticipated that the final Regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, in time for the fall 2021 hunting season. To stay informed on the anticipated publication time period, please refer to the Government of Canada website for updates on the Status update on modernization of Migratory Birds Regulations.

The Government of Canada is allowing the temporary possession of dead migratory birds

The Government of Canada wants to inform the public of a variance to paragraph 6(b) of the Migratory Birds Regulations, to allow for the temporary possession of found dead migratory birds, which is in effect until August 22, 2021 (Public notice: allowing possession of found dead migratory birds).

As public participation in the study of dead migratory birds is necessary to help conduct surveys on avian viruses, it is permitted to temporarily possess dead migratory birds to allow for swift delivery of such birds to provincial or territorial authorities for analysis. The Government of Canada is responsible, under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, to ensure that migratory birds are protected and conserved, and testing dead birds is believed to be the most effective method available for the detection of avian viruses.

What to do if you find a dead migratory bird:

Visit the Canadian Cooperative wildlife health center website or telephone at 1-800-567-2033.

Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada for guidance on precautions to take when handling wild birds (Fact sheet: Guidance on precautions for the handling of wild birds).

Migratory game bird hunting permit – optimizing availability to all Canadians

Point of sale options for migratory game bird hunting (MGBH) permits have evolved over time to increase service and optimize availability to hunters. The MGBH permit along with the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp can be purchased:

  1. At select Canada Post corporation outlets
  2. At some independent vendors: Where to buy a migratory game bird hunting permit
  3. Electronically on ECCC website at Purchase of a Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit

Canada Post is the original MGBH permit vendor and continues to offer them in over 70% of their postal outlets. ECCC works closely with Canada Post to promote communication with outlets and manage inventory and distribution.

There are also approximately 50 independent vendors across six provinces that sell MGBH permits. Examples of vendors include Canadian Tire and Cabela’s as well as small local convenience stores and registry offices.

The newest option is the electronic permit system, which provides hunters additional convenience and benefits. The system is accessible to hunters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hunters can purchase a permit and the conservation stamp online, receive electronic copies of the stamp and permit by email, and print these documents from the comfort of their own home, and once signed is valid immediately. MGBH permits that were purchased online can also be reprinted if lost or damaged. There have been versions of the Electronic system since 2014 and every year the number of permits purchased online continues to increase. Every hunting season, MGBH permits sales start on August 1 and end on June 30 the following year. In 2014, there were 3,500 hunters purchased their permit online. In 2015 and 2016, it increased to around 15,000 and 28,000 online purchases respectively. Sales in 2017 surpassed 50,000 and online sales in 2018 increased an additional 8%. A new system was launched on August 1, 2019, and to date sales in 2019 have already reached 47,000.

It should also be noted that the MGBH e-permitting purchasing system makes it easier for hunters to respond to the questions on the permit, which help inform the National Harvest Survey. Data from this and other CWS surveys are used to assess the status of migratory game bird populations in Canada, their productivity, their survival rates, and the amount of harvest they can sustain. This information also provides data to inform hunting regulations and harvest management plans for future years.

Permits can be purchased online on ECCC website at Purchase of a Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit

Please report bird bands

The North American Bird Banding Program relies on hunters and other members of the public to report bird bands to its office. Reporting bird bands helps scientists and wildlife managers continue to learn about, manage and conserve bird populations.

Bird band encounters can be reported to the Canadian Bird Banding office:

After submitting your encounter reports online, you will promptly receive banding information and have the option to print a certificate of appreciation.

Hunters can still expect to find various types of bands on game birds, including bands with or without the website or phone number. Hunters may report any bands and are encouraged to use the online reporting method.

Thank you for your collaboration.

Appendix: 2020/2021 Migratory Birds Hunting Regulations summaries by province and territory

Summaries are also available on the Government of Canada's website: Hunting regulations for migratory birds: provincial and territorial summaries 2020 to 2021.

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