Canada Goose Surveys and Neck Collar Observations

For a number of suggested reasons the Canada goose population that historically wintered in Louisiana decreased rapidly through the 1950's and steadily declined through the 1970's with only 2,000 estimated in the early 1970's. This phenomenon was frequently referred to as short stopping. Canada goose numbers began to increase in the 1980's and in more recent years peak counts of 20,000 have been documented. While this increase of Canada geese is encouraging, it is still well behind the number of white-fronted (150,000) and snow geese (1 million) that winter in Louisiana. The small-sized Hutchinson's Canada goose, which is now the most common Canada goose wintering in Louisiana, has a longer migration flight than any other race of Canada goose and is more susceptible to annual mortality factors such as hunting and disease. In Louisiana these Canada geese intermingle with the more common white-fronted geese requiring LDWF to monitor these geese with ground counts. Additionally, to more precisely identify migration and wintering areas and to estimate survival rates, intensive neck collar markings of snow, white-fronted and Canada geese has occurred in recent years on Arctic breeding sites.

Monitoring for neck collars has been conducted during the Canada goose surveys but primarily with assistance from local university students hired by Waterfowl Program personnel. These color and alpha/numeric-coded neck collars have been placed on snow, white-fronted and Canada geese across the wide nesting range these birds use in the arctic. Standard leg bands are also attached to each goose that receives a neck collar. Neck collar observations have allowed us to clearly identify specific breeding sites and migration patterns of all species of geese that winter in Louisiana over a relatively short time frame. Additional estimates of survival rates and annual mortality have been provided by the neck collar program and this information is used in management planning and in setting hunting seasons for these geese. Waterfowl Program personnel prepare technical and popular papers for publication on the results of these activities.