Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists and volunteers plan to capture and mark up to 500 Canada geese in six eastern Washington locations from June 24 through July 10 to compare migration, reproduction and hunter-harvest of urban and rural-dwelling birds.
The geese, currently molting and thus unable to fly, will be captured using boats and mobile-trapping panels at Sprague Lake, Potholes Reservoir and Lake Roosevelt/Upper Columbia River near Kettle Falls, as well as locations in the Tri-Cities, Yakima and Spokane. The age and sex of each captured goose will be recorded. All will be marked with numbered aluminum leg bands and adult geese will receive white neck collars with number and letter codes.
WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore said waterfowl hunters can report the leg bands when geese are harvested, and the highly visible collars can be reported by any observer. Recapturing the marked geese at the same locations over the next five years will provide wildlife managers with information on annual survival, a critical measure of population stability.
“Other recent research suggests a need to examine harvest rates on small Canada goose sub-species, the lesser and Taverner’s,” Moore said. “This study will allow us to compare harvest rates between local and migratory geese, and harvest rates on various Canada goose subspecies. We haven’t examined locally breeding Canada geese in eastern Washington for at least 15 years, and we’ve never looked at the urban goose population as a whole.”
Last year Moore worked with federal Wildlife Services, marking geese in the Spokane urban area to begin to learn if the birds are year-round residents or migratory.
Urban goose numbers can rise dramatically when the birds do not migrate, or are not exposed to predators, hunting, and other factors that normally limit populations. If geese are year-round residents, she explained, they may become nuisance problems, leading to hazing or removal. Part of the new five-year study is an extension of the effort to determine if urban birds migrate, Moore said. It will also shed light on spring production and hunter harvest – all which can guide wildlife management decisions and hunting regulations.
“Our September goose hunting season focuses on local populations based on annual spring production estimates,” Moore said. “Those estimates are based on a combination of nesting effort and breeding-pair counts. Goose numbers appear to be dropping in rural areas, while complaints about overabundant urban geese have been rising.”
Reports of band or collar codes, along with locations and dates, should be made to U.S. Geological Services Bird banding Laboratory at 1-800-327-BAND or online at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/call800.htm.