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Giant Canada Goose Flocks in the United States

Atlantic Flyway

Atlantic Flyway Current information is presented for the Atlantic Flyway based on work by the Atlantic Flyway Council Technical Section (1989).

Resident Canada geese are defined as geese breeding south of 47 degrees latitude (Shaeffer and Malecki 1990), including flocks of nesting resident geese from the Maritime Provinces and Ontario to northern Florida and all 15 states of the Atlantic Flyway (Hindman and Ferrigno 1990).

Flyway numbers were estimated at 98,700 in the U.S. with another 80,000 in southern Ontario (Malecki 1986), although some of the latter are affiliated with the Mississippi Flyway. Presumably, these resident geese originated from stocks of giant Canada geese and western Canada geese (B. c. moffitti) that were introduced during the 1930's from liberation of live decoy flocks and through subsequent purposeful stocking. Their numbers, distribution, population dynamics, and association with other goose populations in the flyway are poorly understood but are currently under more intensive investigation.

Surveys conducted by 9 states and 1 province during 1986-89 resulted in an estimate of 52,060 breeding pairs, with 45% of this total occurring in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and 27% in Ontario. These areas provide about 80% of the total estimated breeding habitat. Resident geese also make a significant contribution to harvest in the northern states of the flyway and have become an integral part of the Canada goose resource in the Atlantic Flyway (Shaeffer and Malecki 1990).

The breeding population estimates for 1989 (Table 2) are based on breeding pair surveys reported by Shaeffer and Malecki (1990). Major nesting regions of resident Canada geese in the Atlantic Flyway are shown in Fig. 2.

Management Issues

These geese are a valuable resource for public viewing and in the promotion of wetland protection and enhancement. However, as their numbers increase, they create nuisance problems similar to those reported for the Mississippi Flyway (Conover and Chasko 1985). Control methods such as capture and relocation, harassment, anti-feeding ordinances, physical barriers, chemical repellents, nest manipulations, habitat manipulation, and special hunting programs have been implemented at the state and local level. Applied practices have been costly and generally ineffective in providing long-term control. As resident goose populations continue to increase, more effective and acceptable control methods or other means of population reduction will be required. New methods also are needed to differentiate migrant and resident geese during banding and surveys.
Table 2. Giant canada geese -- Atlantic Flyway, 1989.
State/province Breeding population Fall population
Mass. 7,000 --
Conn. 3,000 --
N.Y. 19,000 --
Pa. 24,000 --
N.J. 3,600 --
Md. 1,200 --
Del. 400 --
Va. 15,400 --
N.C. 2,600 --
Ont. 28,000 80,000
Total 104,200 180,000a
a Includes 100,000 estimated from U.S.

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