|New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife|
April 23, 2002
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will host a public meeting addressing management of the State's expanding resident Canada goose population on Wednesday, May 22. The meeting is scheduled for 7p.m. at the Ramada Inn, 999 U.S. Rt. 1 South in North Brunswick, Middlesex County. The USFWS will provide an overview of a recently completed draft environmental impact statement that evaluates various management alternatives. The public will have the opportunity to make comments at the meeting.
"New Jersey is home to two populations of Canada geese; resident birds that live here year-round and migrants that breed in sub-arctic regions of Canada during summer and travel south to spend winter in mid-latitude areas, including New Jersey," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Resident Canada geese cause considerable problems on a nationwide scale due to their overabundance. Damage from resident geese includes risk of collisions with aircraft, public health concerns, agricultural damage and nuisance problems associated with grazing and goose feces. In addition, considerable damage from resident Canada geese has been documented in native wetland habitats."
The USFWS recently completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Resident Canada Goose Management (DEIS). This document evaluates alternative strategies to reduce, manage, and control resident Canada goose populations in the continental United States and to reduce related damages. Seven management alternatives were analyzed with regard to their potential impacts on resident Canada geese, other wildlife species, natural resources, special status species, socioeconomics, historical resources, and cultural resources.
Most Canada goose populations are migratory, wintering in the United States and migrating north to summer breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic. But a large availability of habitat, especially in urban and suburban areas where there are park-like open spaces with short grass adjacent to small bodies of water, has resulted in growing numbers of locally-breeding geese that live year-round in the lower 48 states.
In temperate climates across the United States, these places provide geese with relatively stable breeding habitat and low numbers of predators. In addition, hunting is usually not allowed in urban and suburban areas, restricting the ability of state and local authorities to control populations using traditional methods. Those resident populations that do migrate often fly only short distances compared to their migratory relatives that breed in Canada. For these reasons, resident Canada goose populations enjoy consistently high reproduction and survival rates.
The USFWS estimates that there are 3.5 million resident Canada geese in the United States. Resident Canada goose populations in both the Atlantic (where New Jersey's birds are located) and Mississippi Flyways now exceed 1 million birds each and have increased an average of 14 and 6 percent per year, respectively, over the last 10 years. Numbers of resident Canada geese in the Central Flyway are now approaching 1 million birds and populations in the western portions of the country have shown similar growth rates over the past 10 years.
Large flocks of resident Canada geese can devastate grassy areas, including parks, pastures, golf courses, lawns, and other landscaped areas where there are ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water nearby. At airports, resident Canada geese have become a significant safety threat, resulting in dangerous takeoff and landing conditions and costly repairs to aircraft. Excessive goose droppings are also a health concern, and have contributed to the temporary closure of public beaches by local health departments in several states. In addition, agricultural and natural resource damage, including depredation of grain crops, overgrazed pastures, and degraded water quality have increased as resident Canada goose populations have grown.
The Draft EIS, which can be accessed via a link from the Division's website at www.njfishandwildlife.com, evaluates a range of alternatives in relation to their ability to reduce and stabilize resident Canada goose populations, reduce conflicts with humans and minimize impacts to property and human health and safety. The DEIS analyzes alternatives including continuing current management practices unchanged; implementing non-lethal methods such as harassment and habitat management designed to make areas less attractive to geese; expanded hunting opportunities; and creating various depredation orders allowing expanded lethal take of resident geese. Resident Canada geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and can only be legally taken during a hunting season, unless a special federal permit is obtained from the USFWS.
Written comments concerning the draft EIS will be accepted until May 30, 2002 and should be addressed to the Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, ms 634 ARLSQ, 1849 C St., NW, Washington, D.C., 20240. Copies of the draft EIS are available at the same address or by calling the USFWS at 703-358-1714. The document may also be viewed by accessing the link on the Division's website as noted earlier.