Sep 02 2013
Normally we don’t pay much attention to the immigration status of Canada geese but it’s going to be an important distinction in Pennsylvania when early Canada goose hunting season opens today.
It seems hard to believe but the subspecies Branta canadensis maxima (Giant Canada Goose) was nearly extinct in 1900 due to overhunting and habitat change. Many states conducted reintroduction programs to help the geese along. Here in Pennsylvania the birds so did well that there are nearly 280,000 resident maxima Canada geese, almost double the management goal of 150,000.
How do you determine the citizenship status of a Canada goose? By time of year and location. Only Pennsylvania residents are here in September. Migratory geese won’t be leaving Canada until the lakes begin to freeze in October and even then the South James Bay population visits the northwest corner of the state (Lake Erie to Pymatuning) and the Atlantic population stays well east of the Appalachians and south of I-80. In most of Pennsylvania, Canada geese are residents.
Why don’t our resident geese migrate?
Geese travel in family groups which collect at staging areas to join larger flocks. The young geese learn the migratory paths from their parents. If their parents don’t migrate the whole family stays put. The reintroduced geese had no one to teach them to migrate so they and their descendants live here year round.
The resident geese know our habits and will gather in the no-hunt zones this month. You may see more of them on our city rivers and in county parks in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, remember that fall is here and with it comes hunting season. Wear blaze orange, especially if you visit State Gamelands where it’s required even if you’re not hunting.
(photo of Canada geese in Ottawa, Ontario from Wikimedia Commons. These geese are migratory. Click on the image to see the original)