Giant Canada Geese
Perhaps like you, I have been seeing more flocks of Canada geese lately. These big boys and girls around Lake Metigoshe are none other than Branta canadensis maxima or the giant Canada goose. They represent one of the great success stories of wildlife management.
The giant Canada goose is one of several subspecies of Canada geese, and the only subspecies known to historically nest in the Great Plains. Up and through the 1800’s hunting pressure, egg collecting, and habitat destruction devastated their populations. Losses were so high that by the early 1900’s they were extirpated from North Dakota and elsewhere. Shortly thereafter, most authorities considered them extinct.
But good news came in 1962 when Dr. Harold Hanson of the Illinois Natural History Survey observed some wintering giant Canada geese in Rochester, Minnesota, where you can now see “goose crossing” signs, and the world’s largest winter concentration of giant Canada geese. He subsequently discovered isolated flocks (captive and wild) in several other states.
Since then, vigorous restoration efforts have been conducted largely in the Central and Mississippi flyways. Efforts by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been successful in restoring these geese in our state. We now have breeding populations in every county.
Although many among us enjoy having the geese in our area, not everyone does. Depredation on crops has become an issue in some areas, and the geese are occasionally perceived as a problem in some towns and cities. Expansive grassy areas such as golf courses and parks make the urban environment attractive to these geese. In some of these urban settings with an abundance of suitable habitat and few natural predators, they have made themselves right at home and increased considerably. Their aggressive behavior at times, grazing habit, and accumulation of fecal material have led many to view them as a nuisance. Even at that, the giant Canada goose will remain the model of the success for modern wildlife management.
By the way, don’t call these geese Canadian geese, they are Canada geese. And if by chance you are wondering how I chose this topic for this week’s Natural North Dakota, it is because last week a small flock of North Dakota born and raised Canada geese flew onto our yard and proceeded to mow and fertilize it for free.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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