A good many Mainers and quite likely a healthy majority of the folks reading this paper don’t live in bear country, so the fact that bear season is now open is of little consequence to them.

But while Nimrods of the north woods are doing their best to thin what wildlife biologists say is a bear population that could use a little extra paring, waterfowlers much closer to home are trying to trim another population that has exceeded what the average non-hunting public will tolerate – resident Canada geese.

Much has changed over my waterfowling lifetime. When I began chasing web-footed game, Canada geese nested appropriately in Canada, traveled down the four flyways in the fall and spent their winters way south. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the wintering grounds. For a number of reasons, not the least of which were agricultural practices, geese began stopping short, and in some cases spending their winters much farther north.

The same thing happened to spring migrations. Instead of winging way up north to the land of polar bears, arctic foxes and extremely temperamental spring weather, Canadas settled into park ponds and golf courses to raise their young. With significantly better odds of survival, populations of these so-called resident birds boomed. Meanwhile, quite the opposite happened to their more traditional transient cousins.

At roughly the same time biologists were cutting back on bag and season limits for migratory Canada geese, they were implementing more liberal seasons for non-migratory birds that had become nuisances, and in some cases, health risks. In addition to despoiling golf greens, they were adding significant nutrient and bacterial loads to public water supplies, not to mention harassing small children who wandered too close to park ponds.

The process took time to unfold. First, landowners and biologists, bound by the demands of gentle suburban folk, tried every non-lethal means in the book to harass, intimidate and otherwise vex the geese into seeking alternative settlements. As predicted, nothing worked. So the federal government authorized states to implement resident goose hunting seasons before, and in some cases after traditional migration periods.


It turned out that resident Canadas weren’t the only culprits. About the same time resident goose seasons were starting to stem the flow (despite tremendous hunting pressure where permitted, resident Canada populations continue to grow, but at a slower rate), migratory snow goose populations were exploding. Again, red tape and anti-hunting sentiment tied the hands of biologists long enough for the snow goose populations to reach dangerously high levels. In addition to molesting crops along their migration routes, snow geese were devastating natural vegetation at critical stopover locations. If something substantial wasn’t done, there would be a population crash of epic proportions.

Again, biologists turned to the most reliable, effective and economical source available: hunters. They opened special conservation seasons, then extended and expanded them to the point where in some areas there are now spring hunting seasons with no daily or seasonal bag limit. It has helped, but the goose numbers are still precariously high and the habitat remains in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Maine waterfowlers are enjoying a bit of early season recreation on the coastal marshes, inland ponds, golf courses and waterways from Kittery to Aroostook County.

When the dust and feathers settle they won’t have made a measurable dent in the state’s nuisance resident Canada goose population, but hopefully they will have made enough impact to stem the tide. And in the process, they’ll have made a number of landowners happy and provided protein to their locavore larders.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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