Canada Geese are prolific breeders and highly adaptable to human invention. Because of that, humans often have a love/hate relationship with this regal bird. By the way, the proper name is Canada Goose, not Canadian Goose.
Since I wrote about Canada Geese for this column long ago, there has been a pretty big change in the Canada Goose world. At that time, there were 11 recognized sub-species of Canada Geese, ranging from the giant Canada Goose to the smallest, just larger than a mallard duck. In recent years, the smallest four sub-species have been re-classified to a new species, the Cackling Goose, leaving only seven sub-species of Canada Geese.
The Cackling Goose, besides being much smaller than the Canada Goose, also has a shorter neck, smaller bill and a darker breast. They are also far less common than the Canada Goose.
This loss of four sub-species doesn’t really detract from the Canada Goose though. This is still an awesome and adaptable species that, unlike so many other wildlife species, has thrived under the domination of mankind.
The official 2015 bird survey estimates that there may be over five million Canada Geese in North America. They have found humans to be good neighbors and providers in just about every corner of the country, sometimes to the chagrin of city park managers, golf course pros, farmers and airline pilots.
Those seem like pretty disparate groups to stress over healthy numbers of Canada Geese. It is because geese get in their way. In city parks and golf courses, geese love the short green grass, grazing on it repeatedly to keep it short. That seems to be in line with park and golf course management goals and should save on mowing costs. The geese however, carry things a bit too far, converting this same grass into slippery feces that definitely isn’t consistent with grass management and human enjoyment of the same.
When the green grass is newly emerging grain, a large flock of geese can keep it short all summer long, preventing it from ever making grain. That clearly isn’t what the farmer intended when he planted the grain.
Airports and pilots? Canada Geese are so numerous around some airports that they are a hazard to aviation. A goose through a cockpit windshield or a flock of them sucked through a jet engine can really ruin a pilot’s day. In fact, it is likely that the flock of birds that caused US Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Captain Chesley Sullenberger, to crash land in the Hudson River in 2009 was a flock of Canada Geese.
Human changes to the habitat have even changed Canada Goose migration patterns. The southbound fall migration of geese once drew with it the close of autumn and the high flying northbound Vs heralded spring. Not so much anymore. Up to a quarter of the geese living today may not migrate at all. Many of the others now delay fall migration.
On the positive side, over two million Canada Geese are harvested by hunters each year. Even this heavy harvest rate doesn’t seem to impact numbers though.
I thought about all this as I wrote the Bird-of-the-Month post on Canada Geese for the Friends of Camas NWR website (www.friendsofcamas.org). This posting celebrates birds of all types and never sees birds as a problem (with the possible exclusion of starlings and house sparrows).
In Canada Geese we have a species with little threat of facing extinction, something everyone should appreciate. Yet, when the Canada Goose gets in our way or becomes a perceived nuisance, we tend to treat it as a commoner, worthy of little respect or consideration, and persecute them for their cleverness and adaptability. Seems we should make up our minds about what we really want.
Help Idaho Wildlife
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), The Best of Nature is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (425 Capital)
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho