Wildlife agencies in Canada and the U.S face a predicament. Migratory Canada geese, which fly to arctic regions every summer to breed, require conservation protection. However, resident Canada geese, which breed in southern Canada and the U.S., often within city limits, are experiencing seemingly out of control population growth. These migratory and resident populations co-mingle during the non-breeding season. In Ontario, and across North America, hunting regulations have been modified by wildlife services to permit hunting before (early September) and after (late February) the traditional waterfowl hunting period. The idea has been that by allowing hunting during ‘special’ seasons, resident Canada geese would be targeted for harvest, whereas migrant Canada geese would be largely spared. In a recently published study in the Journal of Wildlife Management, Sam Iverson (a PhD student at Carleton) and his co-authors evaluated how effective this approach has been. We found that while survival rates of resident population breeding adults have been reduced in association with changes to hunting regulations, a disproportionate amount of the harvest is now falling on reproductively immature Canada geese and other geese unaffiliated with Ontario’s local breeding population. Total Canada goose harvest has more than doubled in the province since the 1990s; however, the increase in harvest has not kept pace with population growth. Most of the additional harvest is occurring during the special early season. Although early season hunting has proven to be a good strategy for minimizing impact on migrant Canada geese it has been less effective than desired for controlling resident Canada goose population growth because most of the harvest pressure has fallen on individuals of low reproductive value.
Paper: Iverson, S. A., Reed, E. T., Hughes, R. J. and Forbes, M. R. (2013), Age and breeding stage-related variation in the survival and harvest of temperate-breeding Canada geese in Ontario. The Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.636
Professor & student