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Ecology and Management of Islands, Peninsulas and Structures for Nesting Waterfowl

Canada Goose Nesting on Natural and Man-Made Islands, Area 8, Montana

Harvey Nyberg
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
Flathead National Forest
1935 Third Avenue East
Kalispell, MT 59901


State and federal agencies operate a vast number of areas for waterfowl production at a tremendous cost in time, effort and money. In order to justify that effort, we need to evaluate our management to ensure that we are achieving our waterfowl goals. This management project was conducted to determine the level of Canada goose (Branta canadensis) at Area 8 of the Milk River Wildlife Management Area. Area 8 is about 20 miles east of Malta in Phillips County, Montana and is comprised of about 950 acres including a 470 acre man-made marsh. Six islands were built during construction and one small hilltop became a 2.7 acre island following impoundment. This report will present data on Canada goose nesting and production on the natural and man-made islands (1983 to 1987). Intensive ground searches were conducted in mid to late April to locate nests, determine the clutch size, and mark them for future relocation. Nests were revisited in early June to determine their fate. On the natural island, the number of nests varied form 60 to 80 and averaged 69 per year. Nest success varied from 67 to 85 percent and averaged 77%. The average density of goose nests was 25.6 nests/acre. The man-made islands had from 18 to 31 nests/year and averaged 23. Success rates varied from 0 in a very low water year to 83% and averaged 51%. Mammalian predation was the major cause of loss on the man-made islands. The six man-made islands ranged in size from 0.10 to 0.22 acres. Nest densities varied from 10 to 35/acre and averaged 23. The highest density of goose nests occurred in rose (Rosa woodsii) clumps on the natural island and dense cattails (Typha latifolia) on man-made islands. Stable water levels and dense nesting cover were considered the major contributors to the consistent high density of goose nesting at Area 8.
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