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Introduction

Both circumstances exist in North Dakota. While hunters will probably always long for more honkers sliding into their decoys, some geese have become accustomed to life in the city, where only a few birds can wear out their welcome in a hurry if they frequent the wrong spot.

Fortunately, North Dakota does not have a serious urban goose problem, at least not yet. There have been problems, but so far the Game and Fish Department and affected property owners have been able to keep them from getting out of hand. Mike Johnson, the Department's migratory game bird management supervisor, would like to keep it that way.

When compared to some areas across the country, North Dakota's goose/human conflicts are minor. "We'd probably be laughed at to be concerned about them," Johnson says. "But from my perspective, I'd like to resolve our problems before they become...something we can't fix.''

Something like the giant Canada goose flock that inhabits the MinneapolisSt. Paul area. The Twin Cities' goose population has grown from about 5,000 birds in 1980, to about 24,000 in 1994. That despite annual transplants of up to 4,000 birds since 1982, and several years of special September and December goose hunts aimed at reducing the population.

People in the Twin Cities, like people just about anywhere, enjoy seeing Canada geese. But they don't enjoy walking through loads of goose droppings at parks, beaches and golf courses. They don't enjoy being stalked and hissed at by a 13pound gander trying to protect his goslings from innocent passersby.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' trapandtransplant program has filled up available goose habitat in the state, so the agency is having trouble finding a place to put the birds it captures each year. This summer, the DNR, as sort of a last resort, is proposing to capture and kill 200 adult geese and donate the meat to local food shelves.

The area in and around Detroit, Michigan is experiencing similar problems. In May, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was looking for approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill about 1,000 geese and donate the meat to food banks.

The prospect of rounding up Canada geese and butchering them, like chickens from a barnyard, is distasteful to agency wildlife managers as well as people who like geese. Yet it is perhaps the most reliable and least costly method of controlling population growth once just the right number of geese becomes too many.

Cities across the country, from Washington to Connecticut, have tried to control giant Canada goose populations with methods such as: trapandtransplant; shaking or putting oil on eggs to kill the embryos; special hunting seasons; and even experimenting with vasectomies on adult male birds.

So far, trapping and transplanting, as well as other less drastic measures like relocation of nesting structures and suggesting that property owners stop feeding geese has been enough to relieve the few problems with which the Game and Fish Department has been asked to help. And North Dakota's problems are usually isolated and caused by up to a few dozen birds, not thousands.

It has been about 10 years since the Game and Fish Department got its first urban goose complaint. Since then, calls have come in from Fargo, Bismarck, Mandan, Valley City, Wahpeton, Williston, Jamestown and Devils Lake.

"Most of the complaints we have," Johnson said, "are in relation to golf courses, yards or lawns.... Most concerns are about overgrazing."

There have also been concerns about geese creating traffic hazards. "At Devils Lake we've had problems with broods and geese standing right out in the middle of the highway," Johnson said. "People had to slam on their brakes to avoid them."

It is indeed ironic that these majestic birds, that still warrant an upward glance as they pass overhead in spring and fall, now have people honking at them to get out of the way.

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