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Old 06-15-2009, 09:02 PM   #11
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They are everywhere here. Many people claim to consider them a nuisance but I think everyone here has a bit of a soft spot for them. Even in the city Canada geese stop the busiest traffic just by stepping into the road--all lanes wait patiently while they cross. The geese get more respect than pedestrians.

I confess that I am a little unclear as to what you wrote about the "giants." Can you explain a bit about your research?
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Old 06-16-2009, 08:36 PM   #12
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There are several species of Canada geese.
Quote:
North America's commonest goose ranges in size from the small "cackling race, weighing as little as 2 pounds, to the "giant" race, of up to 18 pounds.
cited North American Wildlife

Trillium please tell us more.
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Old 06-17-2009, 09:52 PM   #13
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Well, the long and short of it is that people see the thousands of local giants, and think there are too many geese. Hunters are happy because giants tend to be alot easier to decoy and harvest, and there are lots of them. So overall harvests go up. But since the government is broke, the FWS really doesn't do transects of the Canada breeding grounds like they used to, so almost all population projections are now based on harvest reporting and band recoveries. Very few (if any) non giant geese are banded anymore either, so that is all just lost data.

Several years ago it was discovered that all of a sudden the Atlantic population of geese, which migrate from eastern Canada and winter primarily on the eastern shore of the Chesapeak, had crashed. I think it was down to 200,000 or fewer adult birds. These were the birds that made the Chesapeak THE place to goose hunt in the US. Since there were so many giants, and people were complaining about the geese as being a nuisance, MD had very liberal goose seasons. We went out there hunting on the western side of the Bay. The limit was 5 a day. This was regular January seasons when the Atlantic popluation was wintering in the area as well. It was a goose hunter's heaven.

But lo and behold, the AP crashed, and it was masked because there were so many giants. A goose is a goose right? It didn't happen in ayear, it took awhile to get a popluation that used to be the largest on the continent to near extirpation. Well, the feds shut the goose seasons down for several years on the Bay, and it destroyed the local economies. The AP is doing better now thanks to the limited harvest and quick action of the feds. This same situation is happening in the Midwest right now. The Mississippi Valley population used to comprise 800-1 million birds in the fall. Now, it is down below 500k, but the prevailing thought around here is, who cares because there are all those giants around, and they are easy for hunters to kill, so license sales are up. Win-win for everyone right? A goose is a goose. Meanwhile the MVP breeding grounds have been stressed by the snow goose explosion, as well as the push of giant geese north.

The MVP is disappearing. I have goose hunted my whole life. It's my favorite thing. I can also just sit with the camera and take hundreds of shots in a night of geese flying. I know the habits of geese in this part of the state as well as I know my own. They aren't here anymore. Grand River Marsh used to hold 100k geese at peak. Now, I think there are alot if there are 20k. And they aren't magically going somewhere else. They just are not here anymore. The local ponds around here used to support 10k. Now I feel lucky if there are 500 on any one pond. When we do get a banded bird, they are around ten years old, and we have had a couple over 15 years old. I know they don't band much anymore in Canada, but in general, and aging population that is diminishing, is a real danger sign that there is very low production.

When I was in college, the MVP had a supposed "crash". The season lasted a week and supposedly there were only 400k birds forecast. But at that time, the population models used were twenty years old, and only supported a model that included 90% MVP birds. However in the Mississippi flyway, we see alot more than that popluation. So, I proved it. I proved that not only should they be accounting for the MVP, but they needed to include the Eastern Prairie population, which I showed 4-6% annually came through the MF. There is also the small geese, or cacklers, which were not included, as well as giants, and the small Southern James Bay pop. So I set in motion the basis for setting harvest limits not based soley on the MVP. I literally counted thousands of geese on a nightly basis when I could and kept track of there migration routed, and compared it to band recoveries, and harvest rates. My advisor in college sat on the Mississppi Flyway council ,so the data I collected, and the research I did got to where it needed to fast.

But that was then, now, we just have all these giants that hunters love, because they are everywhere, and homeowners hate because they make a mess. Now this year was a good year. We had a very high fluctuation in the amount of Eastern Prairie birds that came this way due to weather conditions out west. We had alot of cacklers as well. So we had the best year we've seen in the past 10 for geese around here. Three of us harvested over 70 (and yes we eat them all). We hadn't seen a year like that in a long time. Only one of those geese was a giant. It is easy to tell the difference. We just don't have giants around here in the fall, so unless we have a high fluctuation year, we don't have geese around here anymore. Columbia county used to always be in the top three harvest counties in the state, along with neighbor Marquette county, even though we have very small portions that are Exterior zone ( one or two a day no permits). Now, it doesn't make the top 20. So again, either everyone quit hunting, or there aren't any geese here anymore. I have four wildlife refuges with water within 20 miles of me as well as the Wisconsin River, and many lakes and potholes. The norm for the past ten years has been no geese, and my Dad and I were getting maybe 5 a year. We would have to get those in the first week, because after that, the same hundred geese stayed in the area for a month, and were wise to the dekes. We used to see a thousand geese a night twenty years ago.

I really fear for the MVP. I know something is wrong. But the DNR and feds in this state don't care, and my concerns fall on deaf ears. I keep getting told hunters don't care because they all shoot giants and they are more fun to hunt. Screw hunters. I don't beleive in managing for hunters. I beleive in managing wildlife for the sake of wildlife. Harvest is a tool for management, it is not a reason for management. I have been told by prominent members of hunting orgs to shut up because they don't want their seasons cut. I have had people in the DNR tell me I don't know what I am talking about because I'm not a professional biologist, and that I should leave it up to them. Bull-oney. In the past 20 years, the makeup of the goose popluaton in WI has gone from 90% MVP in the 70s, to the brief period of about 10 years where the model I developed was used that put the MVP harvest at 80%, to now being 80% giants. Yet no one is concerned. I point to the AP and say, that is happening here. No one listens. No one cares.

So I worry. Last year was so wonderful to be able to see geese every day, wherever I went. But I know thats not normal anymore. I think I am the only person who misses the geese, along with my Dad. At this point, he is the only person who beleives me. Everyone I used to work with in the DNR and Flyway council are gone. It' s the new guard and they only care about killing stuff and selling licenses.
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Old 06-18-2009, 05:12 AM   #14
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Trillium, thank you for the thoughtful explanation. Your concern is palpable and your argument persuasive. I agree with you about the proper role of hunting as a tool of management (in addition to putting food on the table).

I have been struck at how my state's fish and wildlife management's efforts do not seem in sync with the state's conservation efforts even though one would hope that the respective offices are working toward the same goals (I have noted this in regard to information on what to plant for wildlife). I guess it should not be a shock that one governmental department does not know what another department is doing.

Can you recommend a resource where a layman might learn more?
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Old 06-18-2009, 08:41 AM   #15
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Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) geese
Atlantic Population (AP) of Canada geese
Canada goose Facts, Figures, Description and Photo

I also agree
Quote:
proper role of hunting as a tool of management (in addition to putting food on the table).
Is it possible to harvest giants and still protects the others?
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