Urban Canada Geese in Missouri
The phone was ringing when I got to my desk this morning. "Good morning, Missouri Department of Conservation," I said into the receiver. "Can I help you?" "Yes!" replied an excited voice."We have a huge goose at our back door that will not allow the children to go outside to the playground for recess."
The phone rings again."Help! A Canada goose is keeping customers from coming into our store. They can't even get out of their cars."
The next caller reported gobs of goose droppings all over their golf course. "We can't walk without stepping in it," the caller said.
Conservation offices get plenty of phone calls about conflicts with urban Canada geese. The big birds have become so common that they are regarded as nuisances in some quarters. Yet, not very long ago it was rare to see a Canada goose on a neighborhood pond.
Giant Canada geese, one of five goose species in Missouri, were nearly wiped out by market hunting. The species also suffered greatly from the destruction of wetland habitat. By the early 1930s, they were thought to be extinct. However, it appears that the cliffs along the lower Missouri River were continuously populated by small numbers of nesting giant Canada geese.
In 1949, attempts began in Missouri to restore the species to its native range and to provide public viewing and hunting opportunities. Specifically, the goal of this effort was to restore nesting Canada geese to at least 75 of the 114 counties in Missouri. This goal was exceeded by 1991. By 1999 the population was 42 percent above targeted numbers.
Conservative estimates reveal that the giant Canada goose population in the Mississippi Flyway has grown from about 800,000 in 1993 to 1.5 million in 2002. Estimates for the same 10-year period in Missouri show a population increase from about 30,000 to 64,000. Missouri's highest densities of geese are in urban areas.
Managing giant Canada geese in Missouri is complicated by the fact that four other populations of geese are also present in the state at various times. The Tallgrass Prairie, Mississippi Valley and Eastern Prairie populations migrate through Missouri at certain times of the year, but they nest elsewhere.
On the other hand, thousands of giant Canada geese nest in Missouri and are in the state year-round. Because survival, reproduction and harvest rates are different for each of these populations, the status and dynamics of