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Giant Canada Goose Flocks in the United States

Central Flyway


Central Flyway In many of the Central Flyway states, the terms "urban geese," "restoration geese," or "resident Canada geese" are not necessarily synonymous with giant Canada geese. Most of the available information refers to taxonomically similar, large Canada geese that occur in the flyway. Original breeding stock for early restoration programs was thought to be B. c. maxima, but in many cases these birds were not distinguishable from B. c. moffitti, and in fact some of the stock used was from the range of the latter. In some states, the breeding stocks used for early restoration programs may have been other races, but it is not possible to determine which stocks became established.

Management plans were originally developed for 2 populations of large Canada geese, the Great Plains and Western Prairie Populations. By 1985, the winter ranges of the Western Prairie geese from southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, and the Great Plains geese from Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma were not distinct. There are well-established breeding populations in Colorado, especially in the vicinity of Denver and Fort Collins, that presumably originated from B. c. maxima stocks, but other larger races also may have been involved. These populations are not referenced further because of limited quantified information. Since 1987, a combined plan has been used to manage both populations (Great Plains and Western Prairie), now called "large Canada geese of the Eastcentral Flyway," until more appropriate distinction is made (D. Sharp, USFWS, pers. commun.; M. Johnson, N.D. Game and Fish Dep., pers. commun.).

For the purposes of this paper, we have confined further discussion to the eastern portion of the Central Flyway (Great Plains breeding range), where introductions have occurred and the geese, more likely, were B. c. maxima. This includes southwestern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. No geese were reported released in Montana in the Great Plains breeding range, but local populations have become established. Local breeding populations have become well established in certain areas of southeastern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan, the 6 states mentioned above, and portions of eastern Montana (Fig. 3). The restoration and transplanting programs undertaken during 1964-89 (Table 4) have resulted in continued population increase during 1980-89 (Table 3).

The Dakotas

The greatest restoration efforts over the longest period of time have occurred in North and South Dakota. Early attempts began in the 1930's at the Waubay and Sand Lake NWR's in South Dakota and the J. Clark Salyer Refuge in North Dakota (Dill and Lee 1970). Successful establishment of local breeding flocks is attributed to the use of geese originating from surviving stocks of B. c. maxima believed extinct at the time
Table 3. Giant Canada geese -- Central Flyway, 1980-89.
  Breeding population
State 1980 1985 1989
N.D. 4,000 5,000 6,000
S.D. 5,000 7,500 10,000
Nebr. 600 800 1,000
Kans. 250 1,000 3,600
Okla. 250 4,800 21,000
Mont. 200 300 Trace
 
Total 10,300 19,400 41,600
(Hanson 1965). Renewed efforts were begun in 1965 and became operational during 1971-72 (Table 4) to develop a systematic breeding and release program for giant Canada geese in the Dakotas (Lee et al. 1984). In 1989, the breeding population of resident Canada geese exceeded 10,000 pairs in South Dakota and exceeded 6,000 in North Dakota. In North Dakota, more than 12,000 breeding geese were derived from the 1990 USFWS May breeding ducks survey. This survey may have included other late migrants; an estimate of 6,000 adult breeders may be more reasonable (M. Johnson, N.D. Game and Fish Dep., pers. commun.).

Table 4. Canada geese released and transplanted
in the Great Plain breeding range
of the Central Flyway, 1964-89
a.
Year Sask. Manit. N.D. S.D. Nebr. Kans. Okla.
1964 -- 108 -- -- -- -- --
1965 -- 94 -- -- -- -- --
1966 -- 206 -- -- -- -- --
1967 -- 206 -- 32 -- -- --
1968 -- 108 -- 20 -- -- --
1969 -- 45 -- 200 -- -- --
1970 -- -- -- 66 109 -- --
1971 -- -- -- 231 185 -- --
1972 -- -- 886 590 252 -- --
1973 -- -- 1,128 160 372 -- --
1974 -- 98 -- 239 430 -- --
1975 -- -- 850 153 381 -- --
1976 -- -- 998 601 491 -- --
1977 -- -- 423 706 497 -- --
1978 -- -- 314 857 306 -- --
1979 -- -- 508 879 316 -- --
1980 163 -- 439 1,042 0 -- 95b
1981 249 -- 292 728 479 -- 207
1982 224 -- 85c 790 246 282 683
1983 227 -- 253 658 173 3,195d 847
1984 166 -- 385 586 408 -- 929
1985 189 -- 605 290 526 -- --
1986 150 -- 504 167 582 883 721
1987 176 -- 690 242 532 1,576 1,799
1988 95 -- 750 323 506 1,637 2,280
1989 0 -- 623 376 535 2,111 2,313
 
Total 1,639 865 9,733 9,936 7,326 9,684 9,874
a Provided by N.D. Dep. of Game and Fish.
b In addition to captive breeding flock of 200.
c Transplants from 1982 through 1989.
d 1983-85.

Southern Great Plains States

Nebraska has had an introduction and rearing program underway since the early 1970's. Expansion of local breeding populations has been slow, but by 1989, more than 1,000 breeding geese were scattered through the northern two-thirds of the state, north of the Platte River. Recent introductions in Kansas are beginning to establish viable flocks, with more than 3,600 breeding geese reported in 1989. Oklahoma has experienced the most rapid growth in local nesting flocks, beginning with establishment of a captive breeding flock of 200 birds in 1980. During subsequent years, more than 10,000 geese were translocated from other states. A gosling translocation program also was initiated in 1986. By 1985, there was an estimated breeding population of 4,800 geese that increased to 21,000 by 1989 (Table 3). Population surveys are being expanded to measure annual production. Limited hunting is now conducted on some managed areas in Oklahoma, with more than 500 geese harvested in 1990. Another factor contributing to the success of the Canada goose restoration programs in Oklahoma, Kansas, and to some degree in Nebraska, has been the development of numerous reservoirs and farm ponds that create ideal nesting habitat for these birds.

Most recently (1985-90), a breeding population of about 200 geese was established in the vicinity of Athens, Texas. Geese were transplanted from Colorado, Michigan, and Minnesota (R. Jessen, Tex. Parks and Wildl. Dep., pers. commun.).

Management Issues

Giant Canada geese in the eastern part of the Central Flyway have helped generate strong public interest and support for wetland protection and habitat management for waterfowl and other wildlife. In some respects, increasing Canada goose numbers have been the "glue" that maintained the public interest in waterfowl and hunting during the recent period of duck population decline.

Management problems such as crop depredations, affinity for golf courses and green lawns, and roosting on domestic water supply reservoirs have not been as extensive as experienced in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. However, increasing nuisance problems have been reported in metropolitan areas such as Pierre, South Dakota, Denver, Colorado, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.


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