Too Many Geese?

March 23, 2009 by  

By Jason Phillips

As the sun fades in the western sky the splendor of colors serve as a picturesque backdrop for the Canada geese as they return to their roost. This appears to be a sign of success in the dramatic return of resident Canada geese to the Northern Plains. During the height of the drought in the 1980s, resident Canada geese were almost non-existent in the state. The recent wet cycle has been accompanied by a resurgence of resident Canada geese….a great success story, right? Actually the drastic increase in the number of resident Canada Geese has been the source of heated debates across the state. 

Recent conversations with farmers from the southeastern and central part of the state as well as the Missouri River Basin, have demonstrated the formidable adversary resident Canada geese face. The controversy has been triggered by the drastic increase in the number of resident Canada geese across the state. The primary concern is the effect that depredation by resident Canada geese is having on farmers crops. The concerns are echoed by farmers from across the state, contending that geese are simply eating them out of business.

A group of farmers in the southeastern part of the state have formed an organization to rally and address their concerns to local legislators, State Senators, Representatives, the Director of the Game and Fish Department and if necessary the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The primary goal of the organization is to demonstrate the financial hardships resident Canada geese are causing and their inability to legally do anything about it.

Resident farmers feel that under current regulations it is almost impossible to legally reduce the number of resident Canada geese that are causing depredation on their land. Although measures have been taken to reduce the number of resident Canada geese in the state, farmers insist that not enough is being done. Currently farmers are required to have a special depredation permit to harvest geese outside of the fall hunting season. The permits allow farmers to harvest a specific number of geese. The geese must be harvested with a shotgun and strict guidelines are in place once the geese are killed. Only the individual who has been issued the permit can legally harvest resident Canada geese. These permits along with the early September Canada goose season have been put in place to ease the strain these geese are putting on farmers across the state.

However, these methods came under strong scrutiny from each of the farmers I discussed the situation with. They argued that the challenge of harvesting geese with a shotgun in the late spring and early summer, the primary argument being that they just do not have the time to harvest geese with shotguns. Therefore they would like to be able to legally harvest problem geese with rifles. The group has adopted a proposal they would like to see adopted. The proposal requests that each county would be allotted special permits that would allow farmers to harvest resident Canada Geese on their farm land. Farmers could then pick up an unlimited number of the permits directly from the county. Farmers must currently get permits from the state in Bismarck. Farmers would then have the ability to harvest geese themselves or give the permits to other individuals to harvest resident Canada Geese on their land. The permit would allow individuals to harvest geese with either shotguns or rifles.

Following the conversations I realized that waterfowlers and other groups who have enjoyed the resurgence of the resident Canada Geese must work together with farmers and legislators to ensure the success story of Canada Geese continues. It is evident that farmers are very serious about pursuing any means to reduce the number of geese causing depredation on their land. In the past few years, farmers have been harvesting geese in the late spring and summer. The primary target has been mating pairs for obvious reasons. If a farmer harvests 20 mating pairs, that could be up to 200 fewer geese on their land. This efficiency is alarming!

We must all work together to develop a better resolution to the “problem”. The Conservation Reserve Program has been a huge success. Perhaps farmers could be compensated for dollars and acres lost to wetlands and geese depredation. Obviously this would be a huge challenge to get enacted, but the fact is unless farmers are compensated for the dollars and acres lost to geese depredation, it will be impossible to ensure the fate of the resident Canada goose population. Please provide any feedback and/or ideas on what can be done to allow resident Canada geese to thrive in our state in the future.


One Comment on "Too Many Geese?"

  1. Ying Ding on Fri, 4th Feb 2011 9:14 pm 

    The geese poop all of over our community – you can hardly walk on the sidewalk. We have to build fense to enclose the lake! There are too many of them.

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