The World Around Us: Tagging Wild Geese
The day began early on Lake Juliette in Monroe County where crews were preparing for a coordinated operation that would result in the capture of wild geese.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources along with the help of some friends and family will be tagging the geese as they try to reach their yearly quota across the state of up to 1,500 of these water fowl.
After a long wait, our first stakeout location was proving to be unsuccessful.
“We picked one point already and got our nets set up. The geese didn’t cooperate very well” says Waterfowl Expert Greg Balkcom.
We moved along to a second location where spotter boats have gathered, and begun herding geese across the lake.
“We’ll they’re flightless this time of year so we have to use boats to move them in the water” says Wildlife Tech Randy Wood.
The boats slowly corral the geese like cattle in a field toward the funnel net we have set up along the shore which the geese are unable to detect.
As the geese draw near, the cavalry sit and hide in the brush.
“If they see anybody on the bank they are going to be real hesitant to come in so we’ll wait here until they get pretty close to the net. We’ll fan out and kind of form a human wall” says Wildlife Biologist Charlie Killmaster.
While today’s catch of around a dozen was less than the over 200 gathered the day before it was a success none the less. The geese are then fitted with a numbered band around their leg that is matched up with the time and place of the capture. The sex of the geese is also recorded at this time.
“With birds, they don’t have any external sexual organs so we have to make them external by palpitating them out. I’m basically going to bend the tail back here and squeeze” says Killmaster as he checks out one of the geese.
“After the geese are tagged, the numbers are tracked by hunters and birdwatchers that report in the information. This data is used to report such things as population and migration patterns.”
Because of the warm climate of Georgia, about 275 thousand geese stay here year round to nest, breed, and feed.
“The geese that we have in Georgia are all considered resident Canada geese. They breed here, they spend the summers here, they spend the winters here, and they don’t migrate anymore” says Balkcom.
With these numbers they are able to calculate the survival and harvest rates of the geese to determine if any changes in hunting regulations are needed.