What's with all the Canada Geese?
Seemingly every year the Canada goose population rises.
Why are there so many Canada geese now versus thirty or forty years ago?
Canada geese were almost eradicated by hunting, egg gathering and the draining of wetlands in the early 1900's. The government stepped in and Federally protected them in 1918. They were also raised in captivity by a Waterfowl Research Supervisor named Forrest B. Lee, also known as Father Goose, and spread throughout the U.S. to increase their population in the early 1960's. In January 1962, Forrest had been studying a flock of large Canada geese on Silver Lake at Rochester, Minn., and invited waterfowl experts in for trapping and further examination. The Silver Lake flock turned out to be Branta Canadensis Maxima, the Giant Canada Goose, a species long thought to be extinct. As it turned out, the species was not extinct and additional small populations would also surface later.
In 1964, the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center was built near Jamestown. Its first director, Harvey K. Nelson, talked Forrest into leaving Minnesota and in 1965, the family moved to Jamestown. Forrest would head the center’s Canada goose production and restoration program. Forrest soon had 64 pens with 64 breeding pairs of screened, high-quality birds. Forrest worked long days, seven day a week and often stayed overnight at the propagation building if it was needed. This large Canada goose production project involved private, state and federal resources and relied on the expertise and cooperation of many individuals. Forrest even worked with scientists in Japan and Russia. By the end of 1981, more than 6,000 giant Canada geese had been released at 83 sites in 26 counties in North Dakota. 1.
In one year those 6,000 geese or 3,000 pairs could reproduce an average of 6 goslings. That's 18,000 more Canada geese! With those eighteen thousand pair up and along with the original 6,000 they could produce another 72,000 the following year. It is easy to see why the Canada goose has become a nuisance not only in the United States and Canada but world wide. Their survival rate and proliferation is astounding.
Individual state Departments of Natural Resources have tried to control the goose population through hunting. Some have extended the goose hunting season or increased bag limits. None of this seems to be working. To make matters more difficult, us humans have created very nice areas for Canada geese to nest, roost and eat. We have put in very attractive neighborhoods, golf courses and corporate centers with retention ponds, detention ponds and decorative ponds. All surrounded by their favorite food, lush, fertilized green grass. To make it even more attractive to these nuisance geese, there is a lack of a natural predator in these areas. The geese can go about their business without a worry.
People have become so accustomed to seeing them. Geese have become welcome guests by nature starved city dwellers. Some people have taken to feeding and claiming them as their own. Many resident geese no longer have a fear of people and have become friendly. This is where human and geese conflicts arise. Friendly geese become aggressive and territorial during nesting season. Suddenly what was a good idea in the fall has become a horrible idea in the spring.
Waterfowl professionals have said that if you were to take any giant Canada goose in existence today, you could trace it's bloodlines back to an egg that Forrest placed in an incubator or a gosling he held in his hand. It is incredible what started out as a project to save a species of geese has turned into a world wide problem. I often wonder if Forrest was alive today what he would think of what has happened. Would he do something different?
In the meantime we are considering names for our next two goose dogs. I think one should be named Forrest and the other Lee.
1. Bismark Tribune