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Giant Canada Goose Flocks in the United States

Mississippi Flyway

Mississippi Flyway The status of resident Canada geese was based on data summarized by Oetting (1987), and current information (through 1990) provided by K. E. Gamble (USFWS) and state waterfowl biologists (Table 1, Fig. 1). All these populations are believed to have originated from stocks of B. c. maxima (Hanson 1965).


In 1990, there were 50,000 breeding Canada geese estimated in the state that produced 62,000 goslings with a fall population of 150,000 geese, not counting the Interlake-Rochester flock, which breeds in Manitoba. Minnesota's harvest of resident geese exceeded 25,000 birds annually.

About 500 neck collars are put on resident geese annually and leg-banding is done at a few locations, primarily Fergus Falls and the Twin Cities.

Nuisance problems are mostly associated with the Twin Cities, where an estimated 25,000 geese reside. Crop depredations predominate in the southwest and westcentral parts of the state. Public safety problems have occurred at the Twin Cities International Airport and other local airports (J. Cooper, Univ. of Minn., pers. commun.).

Minnesota is attempting to solve its resident goose problems by translocation and by hunting. Most adult geese are shipped out of state; juveniles are translocated within the state in cooperation with local sportsmen's clubs. A private organization, Geese Unlimited, receives about 600 birds each year for translocation to northern areas. About 5,000 geese have been shipped out of state in recent years by the Department of Natural Resources, primarily to Oklahoma.

The state began special hunting seasons in 1988 to control resident goose populations in urban areas and maximize recreation. A 3-year experiment evaluating early September hunts in the Twin Cities Metro Zone and late December hunting in the Twin Cities Metro and Olmsted County Zones was completed in 1990. Experimental September hunts also were initiated during 1989 in the vicinity of Fergus Falls and Alexandria. During 1990, Minnesota hunters harvested 70,000 Canada geese, of which 40% were assumed to be giant Canada geese (J. Lawrence, Minn. Dep. of Nat. Resour., pers. commun.).

A long range plan for management of Canada geese containing recommendations for distribution and population size is in final draft stage. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 1990).


There were more than 12,000 breeding Canada geese in 70 counties in 1990. The fall population estimate was 40,000 birds (Wheeler and Cole 1990). About 3,500 are harvested in the state each year. Wisconsin has been cautious about expansion of its Canada goose flocks. About 3,000 birds are leg banded annually, with about 1,500 of these also neck-collared. Most translocations of goslings have been made within the state (21,650 during 1982-90). Sites for translocations within the state are rapidly being stocked and these efforts may end in a few years. Out-of-state translocations included 300 to Oklahoma in 1982 and 1,860 to Kansas between 1983 and 1990.

Wisconsin experiences numerous nuisance complaints caused by resident geese, but presently has no known safety problems at airports. The state has a goose management plan that includes resident Canada geese. The plan calls for a maximum of 30,000 resident geese. State personnel believe that population control can be affected by special hunting seasons. Special seasons are held in early September in southeast Wisconsin and in December in the Green Bay area.


The 1990 breeding population estimate was 30,000 geese, with annual production of about 35,000 goslings. The fall population estimate was 75,000 birds. About 16,000 of these are harvested in Michigan each year. From 1979-82 about 1,200 resident geese were neck-collared; presently more than 2,500 are marked annually with neck collars and legbands.
Table 1. Giant Canada geese -- Mississippi Flyway, 1990.
State Breeding Population Annual production Fall population
Minn. 45,000 62,000 150,000
Wis. 12,000 20,000 40,000
Mich. 30,000 35,000 75,000
Ia. 6,000 8,000 20,000
Ill. 30,000 35,000 75,000
Ind. 15,000 27,000 50,000
Oh. 17,000 29,000 50,000
Mo. 5,000 7,000 18,000
Ky. 1,000 1,500 6,000
Ark. 1,500 1,500 6,000
Tenn. 4,000 6,000 12,000
La. 200 500 2,000
Miss. 500 1,000 4,000
Ala. 1,000 2,000 4,000
Total 168,200 235,500 512,000

Michigan birds have been observed in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Alabama. A few find their way to North and South Carolina in the Atlantic Flyway. Some Michigan resident geese have been captured and neck-collared on Akimiski Island in James Bay, (apparently as molt migrants) in marking operations for the Southern James Bay Population. Some have been neck-collared in other wintering areas, especially Tennessee.

Michigan has had a strong in-state and out-of-state translocation program for many years. About 14,000 birds have been moved, including a total of 6,000 to Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

The state holds special early and late resident goose hunting seasons to control populations. During special September and December seasons during 1986-89, an estimated 13,000 geese were harvested annually.

Trapping and transplanting of geese out of southeastern Michigan has been in response to damage and nuisance complaints. There have been some safety problems reported at the Pontiac and Kalamazoo airports.

Michigan's state-wide goal for Canada geese is to stabilize resident breeding populations at the 1990 level of 30,000.


There were about 6,000 breeding Canada geese during 1990, with the fall population estimate of 20,000. Harvest of resident geese is estimated at 5,000 per year and increasing.

About 17,500 birds have been legbanded and about 1,700 neck-collared. All translocations have been done within the state (2,700 during 1983-88). Limited information is available on summer movements of geese into or out of Iowa, but some have been recovered in Minnesota and Missouri.

The state goose management plan, which will include population objectives, is undergoing revision. Hunting is believed to be the best state-wide population control mechanism.

Iowa does not have any special Canada goose seasons targeted at resident birds; some crop depredation complaints are generated early in the growing season. Depredation problems are handled by acquiring or leasing land adjacent to wetlands, managing for browse, and using fencing and exploders. They report no public safety problems caused by geese at present.


Results of a statewide population survey conducted during the spring of 1991 indicated that giant Canada geese are present in 83 of Missouri's 114 counties. Highest densities occur in western and northern prairie regions and in counties along the Missouri River. Only a relatively large area in the southeastern Ozarks is devoid of giant Canada geese. Conservation agents in 55 of the 83 counties believed that giant Canada goose populations within their respective counties were increasing in number; agents in only 3 counties reported declining populations and the remainder reported stable numbers.

The breeding population is conservatively estimated at 5,000, with a fall population of about 18,000 birds. The harvest is estimated at 4,000 annually. Since 1971, approximately 62,700 giant Canada geese have been captured during summer round-ups. Of these, 32,700 were banded and 30,000 were recaptures from previous round-ups. About 4,650 geese have been transferred and released within state for restoration purposes. Included in the above banded total is 1,600 giant Canada geese that also were neck-collared.

Summer movement out of Missouri occurs regularly and appears to vary by region. Nonbreeders from the northwestern part of the state molt in northeastern South Dakota, near Waubay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Nonbreeders associated with a flock in westcentral Missouri have been recaptured on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. Nonbreeders from along the Missouri River have been observed or recaptured near Green Bay, Wisconsin, and at Terrace Bay, Ontario. Giant Canada geese in mid-Missouri were resighted in Manitoba. Recoveries of geese banded in Missouri during the summer have come primarily from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and South Dakota.

Complaints are primarily from urban locations and are handled through technical assistance or are referred to the Animal Damage Control Agent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Anim. and Plant Health Inspect. Serv.). Relocation has been used only rarely to solve nuisance problems. Feeding of geese by the public is discouraged by ordinances. A management plan has been developed that includes population objectives, nuisance control, and harvest strategies.


During 1990, state biologists reported 30,000 breeding Canada geese, with a fall population of 75,000 birds. About 18,000 resident geese are harvested annually. About 20,000 have been legbanded and 6,000 neck-collared.

Preliminary observations indicate that Illinois birds make summer movements in to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. Another pronounced movement is through Iowa and Minnesota to North Dakota and the Interlake Region of Manitoba. Most of Illinois' resident geese winter in southern parts of the state and in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Translocation of resident geese occurs mostly within the state to reclaimed strip-mined areas (8,000 during 1980-90). Several hundred birds have been shipped to Arkansas, Kentucky, Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The state has implemented an early Canada goose season in the area northeast of Chicago during the past 3 years. About 45% of the harvest is considered resident birds. They also have proposed a late December or early January season.

Nuisance complaints from northeastern Illinois are numerous, but few depredation complaints are received. Some public safety problems have occurred around O'Hare International Airport. Geese were removed and habitat was manipulated, including dewatering of some pools, to discourage use. There were no serious problems reported during 1986-90. Illinois is in the process of developing a state-wide waterfowl management plan that will include resident Canada geese.


Estimates indicated 17,000 breeding resident geese and a 1990 fall population of about 50,000 birds. About 5,000 are harvested annually.

The state has legbanded about 3,000 birds annually since 1957. Neck collars have not been used extensively, but results indicate summer movements occur regularly from Ohio to parts of Michigan, Ontario, Akimiski Island in James Bay, and the Ungava Peninsula. Amazingly, Ohio-resident geese were observed on the Thelon River in the Northwest Territories.

A recent strategic plan established a winter population goal of 55,000. Hunting is believed to be the best control mechanism. Ohio has not sought a special season, but prefers to manage resident harvest during the normal hunting season framework.

Widespread nuisance complaints mostly are from metropolitan areas. Formerly, Ohio captured and shipped birds to Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Current procedures include translocation of nuisance geese within the state to increase their availability to Ohio sportsmen. Crop depredation complaints have been minimal and there have been no verified health or safety problems caused by geese in Ohio.

Ohio presently surveys its resident goose population every nesting season. Helicopter and ground searches are used to collect nest data. Up to 1,500 nests are checked annually on management areas. Helicopters also are used in annual goose round-ups for marking and translocation.


About 15,000 breeding Canada geese were estimated, with a 1990 fall population of 47,000 birds. About 2,600 resident Canada geese are harvested in the state annually. Up to 300 geese were neck-collared in 1989 and 1990.

Management of populations consists of hunting and translocation from urban areas to rural areas. No translocations are anticipated to other areas, but nuisance geese may be moved to management areas to enhance harvest. Nuisance complaints have been received from Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. There have been no public safety problems related to resident geese in Indiana.

The state has drafted a Canada goose management plan, but it does not include population objectives for resident Canada geese.


The 1990 breeding population estimate was more than 1,000, with 5,400 total geese recorded during the 1990 spring surveys. Annual production is about 2,000 goslings. Major population increases have resulted from releases made in strip-mined lands in western Kentucky, beginning in 1983. Plans are underway to improve population surveys to better define distribution of expanding breeding flocks and to obtain better estimates of annual production. Recoveries from summer-banded birds and released birds are being analyzed to determine seasonal migration, survival, and incidence in state-wide harvest. No nuisance problems were reported.


The spring population in 1990 was about 14,000 geese, of which at least 4,000 were breeding birds that produced an estimated 6,000 goslings. Resident geese are increasing rapidly and are becoming significant in the annual state harvest, although identification is becoming a problem as they mix with migrant populations.

Future management emphasis will be on improving survey programs for breeding populations and development of better techniques to distinguish giant Canada geese from other Canada geese in the harvest. Special attention also is being given to increased requests for control of resident geese in urban areas.


Resident breeding populations are slowly becoming established in 3 areas in the state. During 1988-90, the estimated annual breeding population was 1,500 and they produced about 2,200 goslings. Breeding flocks resulted largely from birds introduced from Illinois and Ohio. No management problems were reported.


Efforts to establish local breeding flocks of Canada geese are underway, using birds transferred from Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio. During the spring of 1990, the estimated breeding population was 3,000 with production believed to be more than 1,000. Most local flocks are confined to the northwestern and northeastern portions of the state, with successful production recently being reported along the Gulf coast. No management problems were reported.


Resident breeding populations are established at 4 locations in the state; each local flock numbered 300-500. The 1990 state-wide breeding population estimate was 2,000, with annual production of about 2,000 goslings. Survey methods are being improved to obtain better information on state-wide populations; and some banding and neck-collaring is planned to differentiate giant Canada geese from migrants during winter inventories. No other management problems were reported.


Various attempts have been made to establish local breeding populations of Canada geese during the past 20-30 years. The most successful attempts have been in the southwestern part of the state on inland freshwater marshes. Several smaller groups are scattered about the state. The 1990 spring population estimate was 2,000 geese and production of about 500 goslings. Nest success and gosling survival were below average. The state presently has no active management program to expand these populations.

Management Issues -- Mississippi Flyway

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