Giant Canada Geese: Our Greatest Conservation Story?

posted on July 11, 2014
dogs_ah2015_fs.jpg (43)

Given that the giant subspecies of Canada geese is now found in every U.S. state—often in nuisance-level numbers—it's easily forgotten that the world's largest geese nearly went extinct. In fact, according to a fascinating report by Ducks Unlimited, they were assumed to have done so until Harold C. Hanson of the Illinois Natural History Survey found a small flock near Rochester, Minnesota, in the early 1960s.

Fifty years later, the population estimate is a whopping 4 million giant Canada geese—3 million of which reside as resident populations in the United States. Biologists believe this equates to the largest total number of Canada geese that North America has ever known.

Many falsely believe that booming resident goose populations are a result of geese that have lost their migratory instincts. In actuality, giants never migrated to begin with—a variable in their near-destruction, as it afforded year-round, unregulated shooting. By the time the damage was realized, it was too late.

Or so it seemed. Reintroduction efforts across the country expanded the giant's range, and it quickly proved highly suited to the modern environment. One might consider them the whitetail deer of waterfowl: They are grazers, feeding on grass and sedges, so suburban golf courses and other landscapes greatly suit them; and they've also benefited from agriculture crops and waste grains.

Additionally they are reproductive powerhouses. Giant Canada geese have a greater lifespan than other subspecies; they reach sexual maturity at a younger age; and, given that some exceed twenty pounds, they have the size required to fend off numerous predators.

How fast was the population turnaround? Just two decades ago reintroduction efforts were still underway—suffice it to say no municipalities want any extra Canadas today. Now the focus is on controlling the growth of resident populations, affording many sportsmen an unprecedented opportunity: Nearly six semi-continuous months of goose hunting.

It's strange, when people discuss America's great conservation success stories, geese tend to play second fiddle to whitetails and wild turkeys. Is their story not equally compelling?

For more info check out the DU report "Understanding Waterfowl: Story of the Giants". It's well worth the full read.


Recipe Venison Sausage Balls Lead
Recipe Venison Sausage Balls Lead

Recipe: Venison Sausage Balls

If you’re looking for a new breakfast idea, these are quick and easy to make, and come out of the oven golden, crispy and flavorful.

Primary Lessons of Spring’s Squirrel Woods

A squirrel hunt in the spring woods rekindles memories of lessons learned long ago, when almost every dad and every son chased bushytails.

Behind the Bullet: 400 Legend

The 400 Legend takes the 350 Legend concept a step further, giving hunters a straight-walled cartridge fully suitable for both bolt-action rifles as well as the AR platform, conforming to the collective statutes set forth by a number of Midwestern states.

#SundayGunday: Chiappa Little Badger Take Down Xtreme

Get a closer look at the Chiappa Little Badger Take Down Xtreme, the latest addition to our #SundayGunday series.

New for 2024: ALPS OutdoorZ Impact Pro Turkey Vest

The Impact Pro has all the innovative features and conveniences of the original Impact, with a series of upgrades that turkey hunters will appreciate.

Review: Stevens 334

The Stevens 334 is a robust, all-purpose hunting rifle built to get the job done without subjecting folks to the expense associated with features they can do without, and it does so while being much more than a bare-bones build.


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.