DEEP: Resident Canada Goose Study Gets Underway

Resident Canada Goose Study Gets Underway
Adapted from an article that appeared in the September/October 2002 issue of  Connecticut Wildlife.

{Canada Goose with a neck collar.}
Neck collars placed on Canada geese will allow biologists to collect important information about the state’s resident goose population.

In late June, the Wildlife Division began work on a four-year study to assess the growing resident Canada goose population in Connecticut.

What Are Resident Geese? 
Resident geese are geese that were hatched or nest in the lower 48 states, or in Canada below 48° latitude, excluding New Foundland. In Connecticut, Canada geese were not present as summer inhabitants until the early 1920s when a winter feeding program, established in Litchfield, attracted migrant geese. These migrants eventually stayed for the breeding season and became a small population of approximately 80 birds. In the 1960s, a small breeding population was established at Charter Marsh in Tolland. Additionally, adult geese and goslings were transplanted from New Jersey and placed throughout eastern Connecticut during this time frame.

 More Resident Geese 
Over the past 15 years, human development has created excellent goose habitat throughout Connecticut. As a result, the resident goose population has doubled in the past 10 years. With this population expansion has come an increase in nuisance, damage and health concerns. Resident geese have negatively impacted both property and agricultural interests. High densities of geese in urban areas have led to conflicts at parks, beaches, golf courses, athletic fields and residential lawns.

In Connecticut, hunting of resident geese during September and in late January through early February is a prominent tool for managing overabundant populations. These hunts are specifically timed to occur when migrant geese are not present in large numbers. Assessment of the efficacy of hunting to reduce goose-human conflicts is paramount in ultimately achieving the proper balance between goose numbers and human tolerance.

Studying Resident Geese
The new four-year study should help biologists better understand the dynamics of the state’s resident goose population. Over the course of the study, the Wildlife Division hopes to: (1) determine seasonal movements and affiliations of resident Canada geese in the state, (2) determine whether resident geese stay here year round or whether they make short movements to neighboring states or Canada (molt migrations), (3) develop an independent population estimate of the resident goose population, and (4) determine survival rates of juvenile and adult resident geese.

In order to achieve these objectives, Wildlife Division staff will be capturing geese throughout the state and placing individually coded plastic neck collars and metal legbands on resident geese over the next four years. These fixtures, while causing no harm to the birds, will allow biologists to assess movement patterns, survival rates and population size.

In 2002, DEP staff and volunteers captured 1,236 geese at 28 different sites throughout the state. A total of 500 yellow neck collars were placed on geese, with approximately 60 neck collars placed on geese in each of Connecticut’s eight counties. Geese were caught during their annual flightless period. Canada geese, like all waterfowl, undergo an annual wing feather molt, when they shed all their flight feathers. During the period of regrowth, which lasts approximately four weeks, the birds lose the ability to fly. Geese were corralled into a portable net where data on age and sex were recorded and the collars and legbands were attached. 

How You Can Help
The Wildlife Division is requesting that anyone who observes geese with yellow neck collars to report sightings to the Waterfowl Program at 860-642-7239 or min.huang@po.state.ct.us. Desired information includes the individual collar codes, number of collared birds present, number of uncollared birds present and the location and date.