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An Outdoorsmans Journal – 7-17-2013

by Mark Walters

Resident “Canada Goose” Update

Hello friends,

I lucked out when I was visiting the State Game Farm at Poynette and my friend Sara Kehrli, who is the Columbia and Sauk County wildlife biologist for the WDNR, invited me to go goose banding in Rock and Green Counties

I had very little knowledge of how or exactly why this is done, and after doing field work and then interviewing Mike Foy, who is a WDNR wildlife biologist in Rock and Green Counties, and Kent Van Horn, who is a migratory bird ecologist for the WDNR, I consider myself an educated man on the subject.

Monday, July 1st
High 82, low 54

Here is the scoop, there are maybe ten WDNR employees and as many volunteers. Our first stop is a marshy pond near Albany and there are maybe 30 adult and this year’s young “resident” Canada geese on the water and grassy, brushy shoreline.

The adults are molting, cannot fly and will not abandon their young. The technique to capture as many geese as possible is unique and affective. Three people in canoes and kayaks slowly work the geese, that are on the water, towards a predetermined location..

Biologists, technicians, LTE’s “limited term employees” and volunteers walk on each shoreline and slowly push the geese in the same direction. Eight people with 8-foot panels are waiting and when the geese arrive, they slowly come together and literally close a square around the geese.

Resident Canada geese are a subspecies of the northern Ontario, Canada goose and are the largest of the species, and because of their body size are able to winter in much more difficult conditions.

As Kent Van Horn explained to me, it is kind of like quail and pheasant, “small bodies”, hard winters, does not work. Large, bodied geese like residents or “maximus”, as they are also referred to, do very well in harsh climates and if they migrate at all, they only go to northern Illinois.

Resident geese, Mississippi Valley or Maximus, were rediscovered in the early 60’s near Rochester, Minnesota and a small population was soon found in southern Wisconsin.

Translocating adults with young took place until the mid 80’s when the population of residents hit a point (currently about 139,000 in Wisconsin) where they were not popular at all due to the messes that they leave on beaches, golf courses, and lawns.

A hunting season to regulate the population was developed but that was not as simple as it sounds. While residents are growing in number, the northern Ontario birds are shrinking due to habitat destruction by snow geese. Cold, wet springs also have an affect on the Ontario birds

The feds wanted documentation so that we were not harvesting too many of the birds from north of the border. That system is accomplished by banding birds in the upper Midwest and then sending money to Canada to band birds in the Hudson Bay area.

When a hunter shoots a banded bird, which for us waterfowler hunters of which I am very proud to be one is a trophy, we send the band numbers into the feds and they complete their data, which allows them to determine the birds banding date and location.

This is one of the ways that season bag limits are set.

Another factor that works is Wisconsin’s Early Goose Season which is held the first 15 days of September and the vast majority of birds that are harvested are residents, long before the northern birds have migrated south. (Is there anything prettier than a flock of big honkers coming into your dekes, feet down and you know you are going to get some shooting)?

On this experience, I learned how to handle and band a Canada goose. I learned how to identify this years young by their tail feathers, especially the end half a dozen. Juvenile Canada geese have a v at the end of the feather, the adults are pointed.

I learned that there was a lot of re-nesting this spring due to high water, which basically puts eggs under water.

I once again learned that controlling populations of residents is not easy, they learn to fly over hunters and drop out of gun range to safe landings, which can often be residential areas.

All means of controlling the population other then by hunting (oiling eggs, hazing with dogs, and actual elimination) just do not work in the political climate that we live in.

So I say, come on hunters, teach them kids to hunt, learn how to make jerky, sausage or roast goose and knock some geese out of the sky this fall.

Thanks for reading!  Sunset