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Why Canada goose banding happens every year in Utah

Posted at 1:13 PM, Jun 26, 2023

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources rounded up Canada Geese at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah in an effort to keep track of their migration patterns.

“Will go out in what’s called an air boat, we’ll find the geese, capture them, bring them back to shore and then we will determine the sex of the bird, age and then we will place a band and release them,” said Mark Hadley, Northern Region outreach manager of the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Capturing the Geese and tagging them is a process called banding and is done across five different locations across the state. According to Hadley, this process happens every June as a result of molting, a biological process where birds shed or cast off of an outer layer or covering and the formation of its replacement.

This molting process makes the geese easier to catch because they can’t fly until they form new feathers.

Banding geese has been an ongoing process for decades in the state of Utah, says Rich Hansen, migratory bird banding coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“Utah has the longest ongoing data set in the entire nation,” Hansen said. “We started in 1965 and we've banded geese every single year since.”

Yearly, DWR bands 2000 birds in Northern Utah and 1000 in Southern Utah. Each aluminum band placed on the bird contains a number specific to the bird. If a bird with a band is found dead or shot by a hunter, the number on the band including the date and location it was found can be reported to the United States
Geological SurveyBird Banding Laboratory. The person who reported the bird will then get a report back on when that bird was originally banded.

According to birdfact.com, the majority of geese live in the Northern Hemisphere and migrate every autumn in winter, from around September until December. The precise date of migration varies with the cold.

DWR noted that Geese migrate due to low availability of food in their breeding grounds. Once their food sources are frozen or inaccessible to freezing conditions, geese migrate to locations that have unfrozen water.

“The Great Salt Lake and the wetlands that are here are vital to these migrating birds because they have to feed all the way along their migration path,” Hadley said.

Hadley also emphasized the importance of this yearly Canada Geese banding to the success of their population sizes.

“That management is one of the reasons why we have wildlife for everybody to enjoy. Both those who hunt the wildlife and people that just enjoy coming out and viewing it.”