The hunt was scheduled to open Jan. 10, provided that at least 6,000 brant were counted during an aerial survey, said Don Kraege, WDFW’s waterfowl section manager. However, two recent aerial surveys of Padilla, Samish, and Fidalgo bays each resulted in counts of only about 3,600 brant.
Similarly low counts were recorded in 2003, the last time the late-season brant hunt was canceled in Skagit County.
Since 1996, WDFW waterfowl hunting regulations have required that at least 6,000 brant must be present for brant hunting to take place in Skagit County. That threshold is designed to conserve the population of Western High Arctic brant that winter in the area.
Kraege said the causes of the reduced Skagit brant population are unknown, but may be the result of poor production on the birds' western Canadian breeding grounds, combined with possible changes in areas of the flyway the brant frequent.
Meanwhile, a brant season in Pacific County opened as scheduled Jan. 3. Information on that season is available in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons hunting pamphlet athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ .