Have you ever called one of those 800 numbers, and hit button after button, as instructed, only to be ultimately hang up in frustration?
Duck hunters – or those trying to learn from their activities – feel your pain.
And that may lead to a change.
Currently, hunters who shoot a duck or goose wearing a leg band are asked to report that to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They can do so one of two ways: by calling 800-327-BAND or visiting www.reportband.gov.
These days, the two options aren’t working equally well.
Kevin Jacobs, waterfowl biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the company that operates the 800 number – which is answered by a live person 24/7 in season – has said that contract is no longer profitable. It’s been having trouble finding people to answer the phones, too.
Worst of all for those concerned about keeping tabs on ducks and geese, some quality control surveys have shown the data collected is often incompletely or incorrectly entered or logged, Jacobs said.
Wildlife agencies nationwide spend about $10 million a year banding birds to get data on survival, movement and the like, “so it’s important that we figure this out,” Jacobs said.
Two changes are possible, he suggested.
There’s been talk on the federal level of scaling back the call-in option, having the line staffed less hours – say 8 a.m.-11 p.m. – or making it possible for hunters to enter their information using their keypad.
It’s also possible that the federal government may do away with the telephone reporting option altogether, perhaps within five years, Jacobs said.
Already, 55 percent of hunters report banded birds online. Officials are looking at ways to boost that, in part by making the website smartphone compatible, he said.