This was in todays Minneapolis Star/Tribune.
Aggressive measures to control Canada geese proposed
Published Mar 5, 2002
Minnesota and other states plagued by burgeoning resident Canada goose populations would be allowed to more aggressively reduce the number of geese under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal released Monday.
States would be given broader authority to control the geese by destroying nests and eggs, expanding hunting opportunities and launching trapping and culling programs.
Some of these techniques are already being used in Minnesota and elsewhere, but the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal would provide more options and make it easier for the states to take such actions.
The growing goose population has been blamed for increasing crop damage and for fouling lawns, beaches, waterways, parks and golf courses with droppings. In Minnesota, the resident goose population has quadrupled since the mid-1980s.
Under the more liberal hunting policy being proposed, the geese could be hunted as early as Aug. 1.
More generous hunting methods -- including the use of electronic calls, use of more shells than the current three-shell limit, liberal daily bag limits and expanded shooting hours -- could be allowed during the special August hunts and during existing special early September hunts, which have been offered in recent years to reduce populations.
The regular waterfowl season generally opens in late September or early October.
Each state would determine which, if any, of the measures it would use to reduce goose numbers. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials said Monday that it is too early to say which options they might use.
"We supported having more latitude to control the goose population, and we'll be looking at some of those tools," said Jeff Lawrence, DNR waterfowl specialist.
However, it is unlikely any of the additional methods will be available until 2003. The Fish and Wildlife Service intends to take public comments on its proposal through May 30, and the proposal probably won't be finalized until fall.
Opposition to plan
Some residents oppose any lethal population control measures for the geese.
Howard Goldman of the Minnesota wildlife organization FATE -- Friends of Animals and Their Environment -- said the Fish and Wildlife Service has overreacted.
"The service has not considered all the nonlethal alternatives to reducing or managing this population," he said. "Their immediate reaction is to initiate an extensive hunting/killing program. We have to find a way to live with wildlife and be more tolerant, rather than look for ways to kill them."
Goldman said his group will fight the proposal.
The proposal targets only resident Canada geese, which are geese that reside and nest in a state, not geese that migrate through the state and nest in Canada. Last spring, Minnesota's resident goose population was 285,000 -- including about 20,000 in the Twin Cities area. That is well above the state's population objective of 182,000.
The Twin Cities area has taken an aggressive approach to containing goose numbers. Annually, about 6,000 geese are trapped and removed from the Twin Cities. Goslings are taken elsewhere and released; adult birds are slaughtered and sent to food shelves.
"Without that kind of effort, it's been estimated that the Twin Cities area would support 250,000 geese -- 10 times what we have now," said Steve Wilds, regional migratory bird chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Running out of room
Last year, a poor nesting season caused the metro goose population to fall by about 5,000, and only 3,500 geese were trapped and removed. But the goose population can increase rapidly. Because of the proliferation of geese elsewhere, officials are running out of places to put surplus metro geese.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are 3.5 million resident geese in the United States. About 1.3 million are in the Mississippi Flyway, which includes Minnesota. That number has grown about 6 percent annually.
Hunters have been the main source of population control. Minnesota's goose kill has climbed steadily along with the goose population. The state's Canada goose kill was just 6,200 in 1962, but climbed to a record 231,000 in 1999. Last year, hunters killed about 159,000 Canada geese. The state regularly ranks No. 1 nationally in goose harvest.
Under the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, states could use the expanded goose-control methods without having to apply for federal permits, as they do now. The states still would have to monitor their spring goose population levels and ensure those numbers don't fall below each state's population objective.
The objective is not to severely reduce the resident Canada goose population, but rather to keep the population in check and try to reduce human-goose conflicts, Wilds said.
"These birds are valuable," he said. "The states want them, but they just want an easier way to deal with them."
-- Doug Smith is at [email protected]