Wild goose chase

County conservation, DNR team up to band local Canada geese

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Allison Stegmann holds a young Canada goose for Tom Smith of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to band before returning the creature to a nearby waterway Tuesday morning.

“It’s basically like herding cattle.”

Marshall County Conservation Director Mike Stegmann, along with Iowa Department of Natural Resources personnel and volunteers, had an important mission Tuesday morning: to catch and band Canada geese.

“The birds are flightless this time of year, the adults have dropped their primary feathers and can’t fly, and the young of the year are unable to fly yet,” Stegmann said.

In this flightless state, the Canada geese are easier for humans to corral into a pen area. However, that doesn’t mean herding the large waterfowl into that pen is a breeze.

“It can be pretty labor-intensive for a short time,” Stegmann said.

After locating a gaggle of geese at Marshalltown Waterworks, the team of over a dozen, including members of the DNR Otter Creek Wildlife Management, set up strategically to herd the geese into the pen.

The animals, from fuzzy juveniles to honking adults, sometimes needed extra convincing to move a certain direction, often in the form of waving hands and moving toward the goose. Eventually, the majority of the gaggle was led to the pen. Stragglers were captured individually, their heads tucked safely under their wing to keep them calm.

“The Giant Canada goose was a subspecies of Canada goose that was once thought to be extinct, and through re-location efforts, they re-populated all through the Midwest,” Stegmann said of the now-common birds, seen everywhere from creeks and rivers to urban parks. “The banding is important to know how long the birds will live, where they migrate to and harvest information.”

The most common way for band information to be reported is from hunters after they shoot and harvest a goose, and the reports create a picture of where the birds move. Some Iowa birds have been reported as far away as Newfoundland, Canada, as well as Texas and Pennsylvania.

“Hunters are the primary source of game birds, but anybody can find them,” Stegmann said.

He added he information collected from banding is important, whether a bird was banded in Manitoba, Minnesota or Marshalltown.

“What we like to do is capture the young birds, that way we know they were born here,” Stegmann said. “The local banding recoveries are just as important as if the bird was banded in a far-away place.”

After the birds were successfully penned up, already-banded birds were immediately released and the rest were sexed and banded. A record was kept of sex, approximate age and location.

Upon completion of banding, all the birds were returned safely to the environment.

For more on banded waterfowl regulations in the state, go to www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Migratory-Game-Birds