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

Establishment of Nesting Population of Canada Geese in Western Montana Using Nest Platform Designed to Withstand Adverse Weather Conditions

David McCleerey
Bureau of Land Management
Missoula, MT 59801

Robert Hazlewood
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Helena, MT 59626

Lyn Nielsen
Montana Department Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Missoula, MT 59801


The Kleinschmidt Lake area in west central Montana has long been recognized as an important duck production area. However, there were no observations of Canada geese (Branta canadensis moffitti) recorded in the five waterfowl surveys conducted there between 1949 and 1978. A determination was made that geese were not present because of a lack of secure nesting substrate. In 1979 a cooperative effort was begun to establish a resident flock of geese in the area. This effort included release of wild trapped goslings and placement of nest platforms. Between 1979 and 1982, 69 wild trapped goslings, 36 females and 33 males, were released in the project area. The flock has increased from no birds present in 1978 to an estimated fall population of 300 geese in 1987. During the 1982 to 1986 period, an average of 65% of the available platforms have been occupied by nesting pairs. In 1987 30 platforms were available to nesting geese; 26 were occupied and nesting success was 100%. Poor results from basket type nest structures led to the development of a nest platform designed to withstand adverse weather conditions. The new platform design is a welded 1 inch angle iron rectangular frame with 1/4 inch thick steel plates at the corners for pole attachment and 1/8 inch thick expanded metal mesh bottom. The platform is attached at the corners to 6 inch fully treated poles driven through the ice. The rigidity of the welded platform is transferred to the entire structure through the corner attachment points once the poles are drawn tightly with threaded rod. Installation is labor intensive requiring the use of a 90 pound pole driver, 6" ice auger, chainsaw, and assorted hand tools. Transportation of materials to the placement sites was by snowmobile and sled during winter months with favorable ice conditions. Three platforms can usually be installed by a six person crew in a five hour period. Eight of the ten lake platforms and all 28 pothole platforms have only required bale replacement. In the two cases where lake platforms were dislodged, all materials were recovered in satisfactory condition and no repairs were needed before reuse. Cost of the platforms excluding installation was $110.00 per unit. Results from this project indicate that placement of platforms on large bodies of water should be in water less than two feet deep and within 100 yards of the upwind shore. On potholes or protected coves of large water bodies platforms can be placed in water up to six feet deep and within 100 yards of any shore. This new platform design can withstand adverse weather conditions and is relatively maintenance free.
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