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Davis Journal

Goose on the loose

Jun 17, 2021 12:29PM ● By Becky Ginos

Dakota Thornley, 7, and brother Hawk, 4, enjoy holding the juvenile Canadian geese.

FARMINGTON—It was a wetland rodeo of feathers and water as biologists and volunteers with the DWR zipped through Farmington Bay on airboats last week to round up Canadian geese for banding.

“We do it every year in June,” said Rich Hansen, Waterfowl Banding Coordinator for the DWR. “The geese are very gregarious and gather in big groups. We pull up in the airboats, reach down and grab them. They don’t have their flight feathers so they can’t go anywhere.”

The goose is put into a crate on the boat and given a leg band. “A unique number is given to each bird,” he said. “Once the band is on we determine if it’s a male or female, an adult or a young gosling.”

Then the birds are released, said Hansen. “We take all the data and put it into the U.S. Geological Survey. All the information is recorded that it was done at the Farmington Bay bird banding lab on June 10 and whether the bird is an adult/juvenile and male or female.”

That way if a bird is found the band report will tell them the bird banding site, date and year it was done, if the bird is male or female and how old it is, he said. “It helps determine survival rates, migration patterns and areas where the most hunting and harvesting is taking place.”

It helps to monitor the population to see if there is over harvesting, Hansen said. “Then we can reduce the number of days hunting is open.”

The first Saturday in October to the first Sunday in February is goose hunting season, he said. “They’re really smart. For the most part they hang out in the city at golf courses or parks where there is no hunting going on.”

Hansen said they captured a couple hundred to band. “The goslings were probably hatched in April and by mid July they’ll be flying again. A lot of birds replace their feathers and molt but they’re the only birds that molt at the same time and become flightless. They do it to coincide with their young after they hatch. It’s interesting how they synchronize that. They go to a good waterbody that’s shallow so we take advantage of their thinking to take the airboats out to catch them.”

Geese normally don’t start reproducing until they are three or four years old, he said. “When they’re one, two or three years old the non breeders go to places with big open waters to molt together. Non breeders leave areas with young. There’s only so many resources and they don’t want to be competing with breeders and their young. Most of the birds we caught were breeding adults with their young.”

Hansen has wanted to be a wildlife biologist since he was 8-years-old. “I started volunteering at the Ogden bay area in high school,” he said. “I got my degree in Wildlife Management and waterfowl banding. We’ve banded 57,000 geese since I started in 2004. All of us wetland managers do it for the love of waterfowl and shorebirds.”