HISTORY OF RESIDENT CANADA GEESE IN KANSAS
The giant Canada goose ( Branta canadensis maxima) once occurred and nested over a large portion of the Great Plains, from the Great Lakes west to the continental divide, and from the prairie pothole region of south central Canada south to Kansas, Arkansas and Tennessee.
During the late 1800's and early 1900's their numbers were reduced as the settlement of that region took place. Excessive hunting and robbing of eggs were the main factors contributing to this decline. For a period of time many thought the giant Canada goose to be extinct.
Information on the early distribution of nesting Canada geese in Kansas is limited. It is believed that they nested on some of the major marshes such as Cheyenne Bottoms and the McPherson Wetlands as well as along some river systems. The last nesting Canada geese in Kansas were probably eliminated sometime in the early 1900's.
The earliest documented efforts to restore resident Canada geese in Kansas occurred at the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms in the late 50's and early 60's. In both instances, the geese were able to nest and produce young. However, the lack of an effective refuge with a food source at Cheyenne Bottoms resulted in an excessive harvest rate of those resident birds. The flock eventually declined to a remnant level where it remains today. At the Kirwin NWR, declining reservoir levels resulted in a reduction of available nest habitat on the reservoir itself. Some of the Kirwin birds began nesting on nearby privately owned stock ponds, returning to the refuge during late summer and early fall. As with the Cheyenne Bottoms geese, excessive harvest during the early portion of the season, prior to the arrival of large numbers of migrants, has resulted in only a remnant population remaining in and around the Kirwin NWR.
During the early to mid 70's, several Canada goose restoration projects were initiated by private individuals or groups. One, located on the Plumthicket Ranch in BarberCounty, was successful in establishing a flock which appears to have stabilized at about 100 birds. Another effort of greater magnitude was begun by individuals near Sylvia and Plevna in RenoCounty, and was very successful, with an estimated fall population of 700 in 1989.
In 1980, a project to restore resident Canada geese to Kansas was initiated by the Kansas Fish and Game Commission. This project has involved a number of approaches and techniques, including the release of geese relocated from other states, the release of goslings produced at several department facilities, and the relocation of unwanted birds from areas within our state.
From 1980 through 1989, approximately 10,000 Canada geese (6,000 goslings and 4,000 adults) were released in Kansas. In recent years nesting Canada geese have become a common sight on wetlands across our state. The primary problem at this time is maintaining a desired distribution, with fewer located in urban areas where they create nuisance situations, and more located in a dispersed fashion across the rural areas of our state..