The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) is in the process of moving Canada geese from urban areas of Salt Lake Valley to a waterfowl management area at Brown’s Park in Daggett County.
The project, underway for the past 13 years, is led by Rich Hansen, a UDWR waterfowl biologist.
The geese are being moved due to the problems they are causing in the Salt Lake Valley. The birds are inhabiting golf courses, parks, and other public areas. Geese in these areas are no longer migrating because food is easily avialable along with the other resources they need including water and shelter.
However, when large numbers start to habituate the become a nuisance due to fecal buildup. They can also become aggressive toward humans.
“We capture them, then band them,” Hansen said. “We’re moving the adults to Brown’s Park and then we move the young to marshes along the Great Salt Lake so the young imprint on wild birds and they don’t return to the city. Then fewer birds that we take to Vernal have much less of a chance that the adults would bring young back to the city."
Hansen shared that they have considered euthanasia and used that solution in some cases, however, there remain ethical dilemmas with the euthanization of wildlife. The transportation of geese is an option that offers favorable results without resorting to more drastic measures.
Hansen further shared about the project, “It’s been very successful in the past by taking the young because less than one percent of the young return to the city. And we know that because we band them all and we can identify a young goose that was taken out of the city and been relocated. We’ve probably taken 6,000 from the city over the 13 years we’ve been doing this. And then if 40 percent of the adults return that still means 60 percent of them didn’t return which is successful and they provide an opportunity to hunters and we’ve found over time that many of them actually stay in Brown’s Park.”
When asked about concerns that UDWR is moving problem geese out of Salt Lake Valley to become a problem elsewhere, he said so far the process has been relatively successful.
“Those that do move come back to the Salt Lake Valley, I think a lot of the time they are coming back looking for their young that we’re taking away from them,” Hansen said. “But they want to come back to where they were taken from.”
So far the process is mostly successful. The geese are behaving as predicted and the problems are being reduced. The general public is happy with the results.
Hansen reassured, “We haven’t had any complaints yet so we definitely don’t want to relocate a problem to another place and we haven’t had a complaint to give us any indication that that is happening.”