Nearly Ideal Spring for ND Geese

By Nick Simonson

On the heels of the recent North Dakota Game & Fish (NDG&F) Breeding Duck Survey, agents report an almost perfect breeding season for Canada Geese in the state, and hunters once again look forward to a successful early Canada goose hunting season opening in mid-August.

“Canada goose populations look like they’re doing pretty well,” said Mike Szymanski, NDG&F Migratory Game Bird Supervisor on the way spring set up for the birds, “ideal breeding situations are kind of what we had this year, where spring breaks out early, stays fairly stable and we don’t get late blizzards or really cold weather,” he concluded.

In addition, breeding waters set up nicely for returning Canada geese, as they were able to take advantage of fuller seasonal wetlands, which were recharged by the melting of significant snow from the winter.  Szymanski stated that goose nesting attempts probably faired better than those of returning ducks, as water levels in ephemeral wetlands were much higher when resident geese returned to the area, several weeks ahead of most other waterfowl.  Observations during the NDG&F breeding duck survey confirmed a successful hatch.

“We saw a pretty significant Canada goose hatch the first part of May,” Szymanski said, “and saw lots of broods during the survey.”

As goslings grow quickly, they are able to eliminate a lot of their predators after the first few weeks of life.

“Predators for young goslings are quite varied,” said Szymanski, “even a ring-billed or California gull can take them out,” but by this point in the season, he added that their predators are limited to larger creatures like coyotes or bald eagles.

The Canada goose population in North Dakota has been fairly stable over the last few years, at around 300,000 resident birds, as an early management take season, once again planned to open mid-August, has helped to keep numbers in check.  While sportsmen are constantly looking for hunting opportunities, and would love to see more birds, Canada geese are a depredation concern and can do significant damage to crop fields.  Balancing the hunting opportunities with agricultural damage, and municipal and private annoyances of droppings and other issues, all come into play for the NDG&F in their management of the birds, and the early hunting season – which is actually two separate seasons – plays a role in that process.

“Our early season is actually two parts – in August it is the management take, which is outside of the migratory bird treaty dates,” Szymanski explained, “when we hit Sept. 1, it converts into early Canada goose hunting season, but we just generically call [the whole timeframe] the early Canada goose hunting season,” he concluded.

In North Dakota, hunters typically harvest 35,000 to 60,000 geese in a given year.  In 2016 the early Canada goose season contributed approximately 36,000 to the overall total.  Szymanski estimated that 6,000 to 8,000 residents take part in the  Canada goose hunting seasons, and approximately 1,000 nonresidents come to the state for the opportunity.  Currently, the early Canada goose hunting season is slated to begin on Aug. 14, 2017, but won’t be finalized until the proclamation is signed by the Governor later this summer. For more information on Canada goose hunting in North Dakota, visit the NDG&F’s goose hunting page.

(Featured Photo: Spring conditions were nearly ideal for Canada geese in North Dakota, and a successful hatch was observed by the NDG&F.  Simonson Photo)

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