Movement Patterns and Sub-Population Structure of Resident Canada Geese in Connecticut

This research was funded by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Bureau of Natural Resources through the Wildlife Restoration Grants Program and the Northeast Wildlife Damage Management Cooperative.

Researchers on this project include Dr. Min T. Huang, Adjunct Research Scientist and Migratory Gamebird Program Leader at the Wildlife Division of the Bureau of Natural Resources at the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Dr. John Barclay, Emeritus Associate Professor and Former Center Director at the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Resident Canada geese pose significant nuisance and damage problems throughout Connecticut. Information on human attitudes towards geese and the magnitude of the current problem is needed to inform management, as are data on various demographic parameters such as survival, movement, and population substructure.

Surveys were conducted of affected stakeholders to assess human attitudes towards geese, current management efforts, and the efficacy of those efforts. Goose problems were widespread and significantly related to urban areas (P < 0.0001). Development and extent of non-forested wetlands were positively correlated with high survival rates. Cultural carrying capacity was 82% ± 3% (SE) less than current population levels. Current management efforts were ineffective and costly. Public opinion influenced potential implementation of aggressive management strategies in urban areas. Hunting was the one socially acceptable tool available to managers that can negatively influence adult survival.

Resident geese were defined as either urban or rural based upon proximity to hunting pressure. I used banding, live recapture, and dead recovery data from 2 separate periods (1996-2001) and (2002-2007) to assess movement patterns, survival, and population substructure of resident geese in relation to varying hunting pressure and landscape features. Resident goose survival rates of leg banded only geese differed between urban (78%) and rural (69%) birds. Separate survival analyses of neck collared only birds indicated no differences in survival between urban (68%) and rural (67%) birds. Survival rates were influenced by hunting pressure. Increasingly liberal hunting seasons from 2002-2007 resulted in lower survival rates than during a period of limited hunting (1996-2001). Movement patterns differed between urban and rural geese and birds were segregated at a fine scale. Cohorts banded within 2 miles of each other exhibited different movement patterns, with little temporal overlap of landscape use. Urban geese exhibited higher site fidelity than rural geese. Probabilities of movement between urban and rural areas were influenced by increased hunting pressure from 1996-2001 to 2002-2007. Resident geese in Connecticut can be considered 2 separate populations with substructure at finer scales. Management efforts need to be focused on the urban segment of the goose population.

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center 

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Dennis Quinn, Milton Levin, Tom Koerner, Cameron Faustman, John Charles