It seems that Canadian geese are everywhere these days. They fill our morning and evening skies. The small lake near the Correctional Center is a favorite haunt.
It wasn't always so. In the 1950's and 60's they were rare except during the annual spring and fall migrations. So what happened?
During the first half of the 1900's, it was a common practice for hunters to use captured geese as “decoys” to attract their wild cousins. They would clip the wings of these birds so they could not fly. However, they would swim, unwittingly bringing their wild cousins within range of hunters.
As wild numbers began to decrease, conservationists began collecting the eggs of the semi-domestic geese to help bolster the population. The “donor” geese would nest again, adding to the population.
While it did increase the number of Canadian geese, the locally raised geese lost their migration instincts. They developed no childhood memories of the northern nesting grounds. As a result they became year-round residents.
Also contributing to their rapid increase is the relatively mild mid-western winters, changing hunting patterns, and an abundance of food grain scattered during the harvest. Essentially, there was no reason to leave the area. Another factor is the fact that geese love to eat grass. The abundance of large lawns and public parks have added to the local attraction.
Today there are still millions of migratory Canadian geese. They will mingle with the local geese during migration, but the wild and local populations do not mate. As Canadian geese mate for life, each pair must be either migratory or local.
Beautiful as they may be, there are problems with the abundance of local geese. They can be a real hazard around airports. There is also concern that geese droppings might affect waterways.
Population control is a difficult undertaking. It is suggested that humans not intentionally feed the geese. “Hazing” the geese (firecrackers, for example) may work temporarily, but is rarely a permanent solution.
They are beautiful birds. Pairs are loyal to one another, and while their offspring (goslings) are cute, don't get too close. Dad and mom can be extremely protective.