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Canada goose population more than double target goal

Regional Wildlife Manager Ron Schauer said the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department responded to more than 300 Canada goose complaints last year in his region.

Schauer was one of six Game, Fish & Parks officials to speak at an open house at the Mitchell Technical Institute Technology Center Thursday.

He discussed managing deer and turkey in his region -- which covers the southeastern part of the state -- but said he's fielded the most calls on the overabundance of the Canada goose.

In 2009, South Dakota had a population of 165,000 Canada geese, which is more than double the target goal of 80,000.

"It's been a very busy year for us with regards of the damage these birds do," Schauer said of the Canada goose depredation. "We're probably going to have another big goose year again this year because we have lots of water."

Of the 300 calls Schauer fielded last year on the "honkers", only five to seven were from Davison and Hanson counties. His region however, stretches as far north as Kingsbury, Brookings and Beadle counties, west to Aurora County and south along the border of the state.

Schauer said spring has been the busiest time for dealing with the depredation.

"If you're familiar with geese, during the nesting season, when they have their young and they're growing their feathers, they can't fly," he said. "The adults also molt their primary wing feathers, so they can't fly, either.

"Because of that, they like to stay in or very close to water and what they do is when the farmer plants beans or corn, you see the geese walking up on the shore and eating."

Schauer and the GF&P devised a short electrical fence that has been effective to reduce crop damage.

"We spent close to a half a million dollars putting up fences last year," Schauer said. "That's a real large chunk of change."

This season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has talked about ways to help halt the overpopulation.

Schauer said waterfowl hunters, which are declining in South Dakota, will be the best solution.

Last year, there was an early fall Canada goose season during September where hunters could harvest five birds. The same season will be continued this year, but could be started earlier.

Schauer said the early fall goose season could start in August this year.

Last year, after September, the limit dropped from five to three, mainly because many of the local birds were migrating south.

This season, Schauer said, the remainder of the season could also have an increased limit.

"I just talked to our waterfowl biologist and he's pretty confident we're going to raise the limit on the September season from five to eight," Schauer said. "He doesn't know about raising the limit the rest of the year, but we want to do that, too."

Another option is an access program where the GF&P would create a list of landowners on a Web site who are having problems with goose depredation. If a waterfowl hunter wanted to hunt, but didn't know where, he could check the list for places to hunt.

"We need to bring the population down," Schauer said.