DNR conducts Canada goose roundup

Correspondent

Hartford, Wis. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crews
recently banded more than 4,000 Canada geese in southern
Wisconsin.

The birds they targeted were resident geese nesting in parks,
golf courses and near urban subdivisions adjacent to ponds.

The crews have a three-week window to band the geese from the
end of June to mid-July. By then, the goslings’ feet are big enough
that a band won’t slip off, but their flight feathers have not yet
grown. The adult geese are molting during that time and also are
unable to fly. Geese seen flying during that time are 1- to
2-year-old sexually immature birds. These geese have a different
molt pattern and they don’t loose all their flight feathers at one
time.

Wildlife biologist Tom Isaac, of the DNR Pike Lake office, and
his crew banded geese in Washington County on June 27. One of their
targets was a small park near the Washington County Golf Course
where a flock of 61 geese resided. Isaac’s crew included DNR
employees, several members of the Wisconsin Conservation Corps and
a few civilian volunteers.

When they arrived at the park, the geese were along the edge of
a pond. Several people lined up on one end of the pond to form a
human barricade, while others circled around the flock and forced
them into the water. Two others used a canoe to herd the geese out
of the pond toward a fence separating the park from the golf
course.

The crew slowly closed the circle around the geese. The flock
gathered into a tight group and waddled toward the fence in unison.
When the geese reached the fence the crew tightened the circle and
quickly passed a four-foot high net around the circle of geese. The
circle was tightened and the geese were trapped.

The adult geese took a defensive stance and hissed loudly; the
young geese cowered. Geese already wearing a leg or neck band were
removed from the corral first. Their band numbers were recorded
before they were set free. The other geese were removed one by one
and handed to technicians for banding.

The banders kneeled on the ground and turned the geese upside
down with the heads of the geese tucked under a wing. They placed
the geese between their legs and examined them to determine whether
they’re male or female, juvenile or adult. A tag was then quickly
attached to each goose’s leg and it was freed. The young geese
quickly ran away, but several adults honked as they waddled back to
the pond. The operation was over in less than an hour.

Tag numbers and data are sent to the USGS Patuxent Wildlife
Research Center in Laurel, Md., where a central data base is
maintained. The center also receives tag numbers from geese that
are killed by hunters. Hunters should call (800) 327-BAND to report
the band numbers from waterfowl they shoot. The center will send
them a written report stating where and when their bird was
banded.

Data obtained from the bands is used to estimate goose
populations, reproduction, mortality, harvest by hunters and
migration. Federal officials look closely at the percentage of the
total harvest of resident birds. A higher percentage of resident
birds can make for a higher quota.

“Approximately 10 percent of the tagged birds show up in the
harvest in a typical year,” Isaac said.

DNR technician Ed Eilert said the geese are getting harder to
trap each year.

“Adults that were trapped in previous years know the routine and
they often take off running at the first sight of a banding crew,”
Eilert said. “Some geese are also harassed by people who have grown
intolerant of the mess they make, and that makes them harder to
trap.”

Eilert said in some cases where people grow intolerant, the
juvenile geese are trapped and relocated. They then become
“imprinted” on their new habitat and return there to nest, rather
than to the place where they were trapped. He noted that relocating
geese is an expensive proposition. The community from which they’re
removed must pay the costs involved.

If the DNR finds an injured goose, they do not capture and tag
it. Isaac’s crew banded nearly 1,000 geese this year without
injuring any.

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