Non-migratory populations of Canada geese have become a scourge of golf courses, state parks, beaches and waterfront landowners throughout the region.

But Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife biologist Kevin Jacobs noticed a bit of good news in that area during the past few weeks while he was making his annual rounds of banding resident geese in western Pennsylvania.

“Working in Westmoreland, Allegheny and Beaver counties, we notice relatively few juveniles this year,” Jacobs said. “I haven’t calculated the age ration yet for the banding, but it appears that the number of young was down from normal.”

Jacobs said there still is no shortage of geese, which are statistically still well within their long-term population averages. But, he said there is anecdotal evidence that the numbers may be lower in some areas.

“When I talk to people in the field – hunters and wildlife managers and birdwatchers – some people say they’re up in some areas, and others say they are down locally in some areas,” Jacobs said.

Why goose populations, and the number of young geese, should be lower this year isn’t known, Jacobs said. But, he speculated that a cold, wet spring might have something to do with it.

“We had quite a bit of rain right after hatch this year and into late May, and relatively cold weather,” said Jacobs, of Crawford County. “There was snow here in the Northwest, and quite a few mornings, it was below freezing. Those kind of conditions can negatively affect survival of newly hatched young.”

Jacobs has recently completed reports on spring waterfowl populations as part of the annual surveys sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said all species of ducks and geese within the state seem to be within their long-term averages, although there has been some fluctuation in regard to some individual species.

“The one that was very close to being significantly different was for black duck pairs,” Jacobs said. “That was very close to being significantly lower than the long-term average. For about the past five years, black duck populations have been seeing a downward trend in their population, and there has been con-siderable concern about black ducks at both the statewide level and the flyway level.”

Meanwhile, Jacobs said that he has seen reports that duck populations are doing well in the prairie pothole region, which plays such an important role as a breeding ground for the nation’s waterfowl that it has been called “the duck factory.”

“There is some good news from the prairies,” Jacobs said. “Something like six of the major duck species are up significantly this year. Mallards are up from last year, but still about the same as the long-term average. Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwals, northern shovelers, redheads and canvasback were all above the long-term averages this year.

“American widgeon showed a decline this year, but pintails showed a significant increase – over 30 percent – but they’re still down by about 18 percent over their long-term average. Pintail populations have been down for a long time, but it is good news that they showed a significant increase this year.”

Jacobs said lesser and greater scaup, two species of concern to waterfowl biologists, continued to decline this year.

Once plentiful, scaup have been declining for years. Jacobs said habitat changes and a shift in food availability are blamed, and some suspect that contaminants in the environment are playing a role.

Recommended for you