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Giant Growth

Giant Canada geese, one of 11 subspecies of Canada geese found in North America, were on considered extinct. Luckily, they were not. From a few hundred birds identified near Rochester, Minnesota, the successful restoration of giant Canadas to much of the United States and Canada has delighted millions of people.

However, the characteristics of giant Canadas that allowed wildlife managers to repopulate the countryside with geese are the same characteristics that lead to these birds populating cities.

Giant Canada geese are more sedentary than their smaller cousins. The three other subspecies of Canada geese that migrate through North Dakota in the fall nest in Canada, and migrate to southern wintering grounds. Giant Canadas nest in southern Canada, North Dakota, and other states as far south as Oklahoma. If the winter is mild at least some will stay in the state all year. The majority of the birds raised in North Dakota do not migrate as far south as the other subspecies.

"They're opportunistic," Johnson stated. "They take advantage of nesting situations wherever they're available, and that brings them in close contact with man.

"And in thse urban situations, there's nothing that really makes them develop a fear of man during the portion of the year they're in the cities. Even in the fall they're not being hunted."

In fact, man created many of the nesting sites used by giant Canada geese. That's still part of the restoration effort in North Dakota, and Johnson encourages people to put up structures and become part of the effort. But, he cautions, if you live close to water in a city, and don't want a bunch of geese feeding in your lawn, you might want to reconsider.

While one family of geese is likely a tolerable number, 2-5 years done the road one family might become five, and they could become a nuisance.

Giant Canada geese begin to breed when they reach two years of age. Females return to the area where they learned to fly to begin nesting. While the structure in which they were hatched might be occupied, theu will find someplace to nest.

"Giant Canada geese are very traditional," Johnson says. "They tend to use the same places each year to nest, rear their young, and overwinter. They're adaptable and long-lived (up to 20 or more years).

"When you add the refuge aspect of an urban situation, the birds are not hunted and mortality is low. All these lead to a rapid population build-up"

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