CONTACT: Jess Carloni: (603) 868-1095 Dan Bergeron: (603) 271-1439 September 27, 2022
Concord, NH – Following an unusual episode of mortality caused by avian influenza this spring, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) anticipates a decline in the number of common eiders in the St. Lawrence Estuary in 2023 and beyond. Many of these birds migrate south to winter in southern New England.
In order not to further exacerbate the situation for the species, NH Fish and Game is asking that hunters here in New Hampshire follow the same steps that CWS is calling for with hunters in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island:
Reduce, on a voluntary basis, their harvest of common eiders for the 2022 to 2023 season
Refrain from harvesting female common eiders or young. Females and young are brown in color while males are white and black
For about 20 years, the population of Common Eiders nesting in Québec’s colonies in the St. Lawrence Estuary has been stable. One of the reasons the population is not increasing is that recruitment (percentage of young in the population) is probably just sufficient to replace adult mortality (from natural causes and hunting).
In the spring of 2022, an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) occurred at some of the largest eider colonies in the estuary, and a non-exhaustive count of carcasses recovered allowed CWS to estimate that between 5 and 15% of nesting females died Many nests were abandoned by the females, and very few crèches (groupings of adult females with their broods) were observed in the estuary. As a result, CWS biologists expect the number of young birds for 2022 to be particularly low and the population to be lower in the coming years.
While the daily bag for eiders in the Atlantic Flyway states is currently limited to no more than three birds, of which only one can be a hen, we are also asking New Hampshire hunters to voluntarily restrict their harvest of “brown” birds.
Southern New England is the wintering terminus for many eiders breeding in Canada. “It would be irresponsible to ask Canadian hunters to forgo harvesting hens and young birds only to have them shot when they arrive to their wintering area,” said Jessica Carloni, Waterfowl Project Leader at NH Fish and Game. “This step is will hopefully allow eiders to recover from the recent avian influenza outbreak.”