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September 1, 2003 DNR News (803) 734-3950

HUNTERS URGED TO REPORT BANDED MOURNING DOVES

Hunters can help wildlife biologists studying South Carolina mourning dove populations by returning information from banded birds harvested during the upcoming dove season.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is cooperating with 25 states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in a nationwide banding study. The objectives of this three-year study are to determine dove harvest and survival rates and to improve mourning dove management. "Despite the importance of mourning doves as a game species, there have been no large-scale banding projects on doves since the advent of the 1-800 band reporting system," according to Billy Dukes, Small Game Project Supervisor with DNR's Wildlife Management Section.

From July 1 through mid-August, more than 22,000 doves are banded annually by participating states. While South Carolina's banding quota for 2003 was only 500 birds, DNR and the USFWS biologists were successful in banding 1,323 doves during the recently-completed pre-season banding period. "This overwhelming success is a credit to all of the personnel involved in banding this year," Dukes said. "It demonstrates a commitment on the part of all participants to improve our knowledge of dove populations and our ability to properly manage this important resource."

Doves were captured in funnel traps, fitted with metal leg bands, and released at the site of capture. While the banding of doves is the important first step in the process, hunter returns of band numbers provide the critical information necessary to make the project a success, according to Dukes. Hunters recovering a banded dove should call the toll-free reporting number etched on each band (1-800-327-BAND) to report the date and location of the recovery. Hunters are allowed to keep recovered bands, and will be provided a certificate of appreciation from the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory indicating the banding location of the recovered bird.

The 2003-04 mourning dove season in South Carolina is Sept. 1 - Oct. 4 (afternoons only Sept. 1 - 6), Nov. 22 - 29, and Dec. 19 - Jan. 15. Shooting hours are noon to sunset from Sept. 1 through Sept. 6, and 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset for the remainder of the season. Dove hunters are reminded of the requirement to obtain a free migratory bird permit before hunting. The migratory bird permit is required in addition to a hunting license and can be obtained free of charge from any hunting and fishing license vendor.

Mourning doves are among the most abundant birds in South Carolina and second only to white-tailed deer in hunting popularity throughout the Palmetto State. The estimated continental population of mourning doves is more than 400 million birds.

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