FARMINGTON, W.Va. — It’s the oddest looking roundup you’ll ever see, but a team from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has been busy herding up Canada geese in various parts of the state this summer.
“Mid June to mid July, believe it or not, Canada geese are flightless,” said Biologist Mike Peters who is Migratory Bird and Small Game Project Leader for the DNR. “They molt their primary flight feathers and it lends them to be pretty vulnerable to predators and to us.”
The DNR takes advantage of the vulnerability and traps the birds, placing a leg band on them and then releasing them a short time later.
“We put uniquely numbered leg bands on each bird,” Peters explained. “It helps us to determine the harvest rates of geese in West Virginia.”
Since harvest information is the goal, Peters added they don’t always take the easiest birds to band.
“If we band birds in a city park, it really doesn’t give us any information if they’re never harvested or never leave,” he explained. “We’ll go to larger bodies of water since that’s where geese take their goslings to raise them. We’ll target places like the Ohio River or Stonewall Jackson Lake or some of the bigger bodies of water.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees protection and regulation of migratory game birds, requires states to place a certain number of leg bands every year. That requirement also extends to doves, which a much bigger challenge for the banding teams.
“They’re not flightless,” he laughed. “We use ground traps to trap doves during this time of the year. We bait them with millet and sunflower seeds and we catch them that way.”
Doves are also a migratory bird and the bands help to monitor the harvest of those birds as well. Often bands will wind up being returned from other states on the doves.
Hunters who kill a dove, goose, or some other bird with a band are asked to report the information contained in the band to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The reports were once made via telephone, but technology has advanced passed the 1-800 days. Today, hunters can report their harvest online at www.reportband.gov
The Canada goose and dove hunting seasons in West Virginia are due to open around Labor Day weekend in West Virginia.