It’s that time of year when western Nevada parks, ball fields and golf courses are taken over by migratory visitors from the north.
Depending on weather conditions not only here but in the wheat fields of Canada, the area’s population of Canada Geese can swell to more than 2,000 to 10,000 or more.
And according to Chris Healy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, all indications are this is going to be one of those years.
“Western Nevada is a great place to be a Canada goose,” he said. “We have all these parks, soccer fields and golf courses and there are very few years where the geese are driven out of here by winter conditions.”
After all, he said, there’s a reason people make coats out of goose down.
But it’s not only the weather in western Nevada. According to Ducks Unlimited, the goose population is influenced by the weather in Canada during their nesting and brood-rearing periods.
“In 2015, the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) reports that weather and habitat conditions were favorable for breeding geese in Alaska and the western Arctic,” according to a report on the DU website.
Add on a cold winter in the north-country and the result is lots of geese migrating south for the winter in late October.
Healy said NDOW won’t actually know until its annual waterfowl count in the first and second week of January, but he expects the population is big this year. Two years ago, he said it was about 10,000, last year about 9,000, but it can reach 15,000, “if there’s a horrible winter in Canada, Montana and the Dakotas.”
Healy said NDOW does an annual round-up to keep the resident population — the geese that live here year round — in check in part because of the danger the large, heavy birds present to commercial aircraft.
But he said there’s no way to stop the migratory birds from coming in.
“When geese fly over the Truckee Meadows or Carson City, they don’t see the baseball field or softball field or golf course,” he said. “They see short green grass and those places always have water features.”
He said the ducks, which are more dependent on water, flew over Nevada and headed south but the geese, “aren’t so tied to water. They’re grazers.
“It’s like a destination resort for Canada geese.”
Everyone enjoys watching them fly over in perfect “V” formations, honking as they go. But Healy conceded geese — most particularly their droppings — can be a nuisance. He said he did some research for a TV show at one point and was told an adult goose droops upward of 100 pellets a day.
So some places, including high schools such as Reno and Wooster, put up fishing line draped with bright colored plastic ribbons in a grid pattern to keep the geese from landing.
Overall, Healy said, “this is a rather nice place to be for a Canada goose.”