600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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June 10, 2010
Contact: Mikal Moore, (509) 754-4624, ext. 237

Goose marking under way to investigate
nesting declines in eastern Washington

Anyone who spots a Canada goose with a white neck collar is asked to report it.

A Canada goose is fitted with an aluminum leg band.

Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager, collars a Canada goose.

SPOKANE—Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists are marking Canada geese in eastern Washington this month as part of an ongoing study to understand hunter harvest patterns and how geese use urban and rural habitat.

"Goose nesting counts have been declining for the past 10 years in most rural survey areas, while complaints about urban geese have been rising," said Mikal Moore, WDFW waterfowl specialist. "This marking project, and information returned by hunters and birdwatchers, will help us understand movements of geese relative to hunting areas."

Urban goose numbers can rise dramatically when the birds do not migrate, or are not exposed to predators, hunting or other factors that normally limit populations. Geese may become habituated to urban areas that are closed to hunting. When people feed geese, they also encourage the animals to remain in urban areas, rather than migrate naturally, according to wildlife biologists.

For the third consecutive year of the study, up to 1,000 geese— currently molting and thus unable to fly— will be temporarily captured and marked by biologists and volunteers. From June 16-29, the crews will capture, band, and collar the geese, using boats and portable trapping panels at urban and rural locations in Yakima, the Tri-Cities, Moses Lake, Coulee City, Wenatchee, Spokane, Sprague Lake and the Pend Oreille River.

The age and sex of each captured goose will be recorded. All will be marked with numbered aluminum leg bands and some adult geese will receive white neck collars with number and letter codes.

Moore asks that waterfowl hunters report leg band information if they harvest a marked goose. The highly visible collars can be reported by any observer. Wildlife managers also plan to recapture marked geese over the next five years to gain information on annual survival, a critical measure of population stability.

Reports of band or collar codes, along with locations and dates, should be made to U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory at 1-800-327-BAND or online at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/call800.htm.

"This study will allow us to compare harvest rates and movement patterns between local and migratory geese," Moore said. "This will help us learn if urban birds are year-round residents or migratory, and to what extent they are hunted."

The study, begun in 2008, is the first of eastern Washington’s urban goose populations, and the first examination in 15 years of locally breeding Canada geese in eastern Washington.

To date, biologists have banded 1,423 banded geese from eight distinct areas in eastern Washington. Of these geese, 327 with neck collars have been observed, and hunters have reported 163 marked geese that were harvested. Several of the band returns came from as far away as northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, although most were local.

More information on Canada geese is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/canada_geese.html.