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Habitat Management for Migrating and Wintering
Canada Geese: A Moist-Soil Alternative

Introduction


goose over Historically, migrating and wintering Canada geese in the Mississippi Flyway used riverine and coastal wetlands (Bent 1925, Hanson and Smith 1950). Destruction and degradation of these habitats and more intensive land use for agriculture resulted in a major shift of geese toward agricultural crops, primarily corn and winter wheat. Increasing numbers and changes in the distribution of Canada geese coincided with changes in agricultural land use and development of state and federal refuges (Vaught and Kirsch 1966, Hankla and Rudolph 1967). Traditional management for Canada geese on state and federal areas includes providing refuge on large water bodies and food in the form of agricultural crops (Vaught and Kirsch 1966, Humburg et al. 1985, Mississippi Flyway Council Technical Section 1992).

Although moist-soil management has been implemented widely and has been successful for ducks and other waterbirds (Taylor 1978, Rundle and Fredrickson 1981, Fredrickson and Taylor 1982), few studies have focused on the potential of moist-soil areas to provide Canada geese with necessary resources during migration and winter. Most studies of the wintering ecology of Canada geese have focused on areas lacking wetlands (Raveling 1969, Bell and Klimstra 1970) or on use of agricultural systems (Vaught and Kirsch 1966, Koerner et al. 1974, Kahl 1980, Harvey 1987). However, early studies by Glazener (1946), Helm (1951), and Korschgen (1955) indicated the importance of native, moist-soil foods in the diet when seasonally flooded wetlands were available.

This paper integrates information from unpublished studies in Missouri to demonstrate the value and potential of managed, seasonally flooded wetlands (commonly called moist-soil areas) for migrating and wintering geese. Most of the information relates to larger races of Canada geese. We address use and value of moist-soil areas, integration of moist-soil management with traditional habitat management practices, and research needs. We base our conclusions on management experience and unpublished data from Missouri, but we believe our suggestions are applicable throughout North America.

D.A. Graber provided valuable insights on Canada goose management throughout the preparation of this paper. M. K. Lauban provided information and insight on current moist-soil investigations in southeast Missouri. P. Thomsen, Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, provided information on refuge management plans. H. H. Prince and 2 anonymous reviewers provided critical reviews of the manuscript. This work was supported by the Missouri Department of Conservation (Pittman-Robertson Project W-13-R) and Gaylord Memorial Laboratory (School of Nat. Resour., Univ. of Mo.-Columbia, and Mo. Dep. of Conserv., cooperating).


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