Title

Movement patterns and sub-population structure of resident Canada geese in Connecticut

Date of Completion

January 2010

Keywords

Agriculture, Wildlife Management

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Resident Canada geese pose significant nuisance and damage problems throughout Connecticut. Information on human attitudes towards geese and the magnitude of the current problem is needed to inform management, as are data on various demographic parameters such as survival, movement, and population substructure. Hunting is the one socially acceptable tool available to managers that can negatively influence adult survival. Resident geese were defined as either non-huntable or huntable based upon proximity to hunting pressure. Surveys were conducted of affected stakeholders to assess human attitudes towards geese, current management efforts, and the efficacy of those efforts. I used banding, live recapture, and dead recovery data from 2 separate periods (1996-2001) and (2002-2007) to assess movement patterns, survival, and population substructure of resident geese in relation to varying hunting pressure and landscape features. Goose problems were widespread and significantly related to urban areas (P < 0.0001). Development and extent of non-forested wetlands were positively correlated with high survival rates. Cultural carrying capacity was 82% ± 3% (SE) less than current population levels. Current management efforts were ineffective and costly. Public opinion influenced potential implementation of aggressive management strategies in urban areas. Resident goose survival rates of leg banded only geese differed between non-huntable (78%) and huntable (69%) birds. Separate survival analyses of neck collared only birds indicated no differences in survival between non-huntable (68%) and huntable (67%) birds. Survival rates were influenced by hunting pressure. Increasingly liberal hunting seasons from 2002-2007 resulted in lower survival rates than during a period of limited hunting (1996-2001). Movement patterns differed between urban and rural geese and birds were segregated at a fine scale. Cohorts banded within 2 miles of each other exhibited different movement patterns, with little temporal overlap of landscape use. Non-huntable geese exhibited higher site fidelity than huntable geese. Probabilities of movement between non-huntable and huntable areas were influenced by increased hunting pressure from 1996-2001 to 2002-2007. Resident geese in Connecticut can be considered 2 separate populations with substructure at finer scales. Management efforts need to be focused on the urban segment of the goose population. ^