No doubt it’s been a little more an ’08 winter and not an ’06 winter and the wintering waterfowl numbers are a good indication.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey revealed 25,400 Canada geese wintering on the Missouri River in early January.
Waterfowl biologist Mike Szymanski said harsh winter conditions beginning in mid-December pushed most waterfowl out of the state. “A mild fall allowed a significant number of smaller-sized Canada geese and snow geese to move through the state before Thanksgiving, but there was not a pronounced movement of large-sized Canada geese through the area,” he said.
Last year’s severe winter broke the pattern of more geese staging on the Missouri River in North Dakota, when only 9,700 geese were counted during the midwinter survey. Prior to that, several years of unseasonably mild winter weather allowed numbers of Canada geese using the river through winter to increase.
“Since 2005 a new record was established every year, reaching 175,000 geese in 2008,” Szymanski said. “But geese could not tolerate the severe weather last winter, thus the dramatic drop in numbers.”
From 1998 to 2004, the number of Canada geese on the river during the midwinter survey was between 2,000 and 89,000. Prior to 1998, the count was rarely more than 10,000.
Szymanski said it takes years for geese to establish a migratory pattern, and that’s why it may take several more years of favorable staging conditions before the record high numbers of the mid-to-late 2000s are reached again. “It’s really important for those birds to maintain a positive energy balance,” he added. “Otherwise, we may not regain the numbers of geese we had several years ago.”