Canada Goose Restoration

The Central Flyway Council (CFC) has placed a high priority on Canada goose management since its inception in 1948. While individual states and provinces worked within their jurisdictions to increase the number of breeding Canadas, the CFC provided an important forum for other management decisions such as those involving inventory and hunting regulations. This is consistent with the Goal of the management plans for each of the three populations of Canada geese that occur primarily in the CF, which is: "Maximum recreational opportunity consistent with the welfare of the population, international treaties, habitat constraints and the interests of all Central Flyway provinces and states."

Canada goose restoration efforts began in the CF as early as 1936 when Nebraska's first captive flock was established. Between 1938 and 1941, captive, breeding flocks were being maintained at four National Wildlife Refuges in North and South Dakota.. Over the next four decades, captive flocks were established in most CF states as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan. At the end of the 20th century, more than 120,000 Canada geese had been released in the Central Flyway as part of restoration efforts. Current breeding population size may be over one million (remembering that both spring and winter counts are really indices to population size).

In the decade of the 1960's, winter counts of all Canada geese in the Central Flyway (CF) averaged about 220,000. The average winter count between 1995-1999 was about 1.5 million, an increase of nearly 600 percent. The percent of the total population of Canada geese in the CF from the Great Plains Population, which is the name given by the CF to restoration birds, changed from about 5% to about 20% during a time when all Canada goose populations were increasing.

Recreational use of Canada geese has increased as well. While there is no good estimate of number of "use-days" accumulated by non-hunters associated with increasing numbers of resident geese, harvest has increased significantly. This occurred even though the Flyway kept a fairly tight rein on goose hunting regulations through about 1990, when a gradual liberalization was begun.

In the early 1980's, about 110,000 large Canada geese (52% of the total Canada goose harvest) were harvested in the US portion of the CF along with about 130,000 (65% of total) in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In the late-1990's, the harvest had grown to about 410,000 in the U.S. (70% of total Canada goose harvest) and 168,000 (73%) in Canada. Many of the large Canada geese harvested in the U.S. were "home grown."

The CFC considers the restoration of Canada geese a resounding success, given the current population size and amount of recreation being provided hunters and non-hunters alike. However, they have found it necessary to address problems being caused by goose populations that have grown too large, creating conflicts with people. In March 2000, the CFC adopted a document to address this issue entitled Large Canada Geese in the Central Flyway: Management of Depredation, Nuisance and Human Health and Safety Issues. The Goal of that plan is: Manage resident Canada geese in the Central Flyway to achieve maximum benefits from these birds while minimizing conflicts between geese and humans. The Executive Summary can be reviewed here and the entire document is available in PDF (443 KB).

This document is the Central Flyway's contribution to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by the FWS on the control of Resident Canada geese. The EIS was published in early March, 2002 and the Central Flyway provided official comments. The entire EIS is available on the web at the USFWS site.