Are there more geese in Wisconsin than there used to be?
The number of Canada geese in Wisconsin is very much on the rise, increasing exponentially since standardized bird counts began in 1966, according to Stan Temple, professor of wildlife ecology at UW-Madison.
“If you go to any park or golf course in Madison, you have to watch where you step for all the goose poop,” Temple said.
You might want to watch where you point your jet engine, too, Temple says, lest it end up inhaling a goose.
Geese in Wisconsin are divided into two populations headed in different directions. The flocks of geese that breed in Canada and migrate through Wisconsin are not getting larger. In fact, their numbers have dwindled slightly in recent years.
It’s the geese that live and breed in Wisconsin year-round that are booming — up to 148,293, a 27 percent jump over 2008, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The local geese have bounced back remarkably from historically low numbers that were held down — in part — by an early fall goose hunting season.
“It ended up putting a disproportionate amount of the hunting pressure on the locally breeding geese who spent all of the hunting season in state,” Temple says.
A successful effort by fans of the giant Canada goose (the species most often settling in Wisconsin year-round) to push back the hunting calendar turned shotguns on the migrating geese when they are far more active over Wisconsin than their local brethren.
An abundance of food has worked for the local geese, too. Modern no-till farming leaves waste grain above ground through the winter, and during the milder months geese are drawn to some of the same spots people enjoy.
“Turf farms and golf courses and parks are very welcoming places for geese,” Temple says.
And those attractive locations are generally near urban and suburban areas, where population control through hunting is not particularly welcome.