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The Real Poop on Canada Geese

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I'm a painter. And often, I use a brush that's too broad for the job. I got a thought-provoking private email from my friend Ken Faller, pointing out some... uh, inaccuracies in my "Righteous Geese" post. In it, I wrote about the introduction of a nonmigratory race of Canada goose that has succeeded too well, resulting in gobs of geese marching around suburbs and golf courses all over the country. In the post, I'm in full 20/20 hindsight mode, and I needed some background on why the giant Canada goose was encouraged to go forth and cover the earth in the first place. Ken's a gentleman, and he didn't want to seem overcritical, or turn the comments section into a forum on nonmigratory Canada geese. He also happens to be one of my favorite writers. He made some points and supplied some information that I found fascinating, and I was inspired to pass it along to you. From Ken's email:
(1) You place the blame entirely on the shoulders of the USF&WS. I believe they were eagerly aided and abetted by various State governmental entities, and that the nuclei of the earliest populations came from entirely private sources. (2) You state that USF&WS placed populations of wing-clipped birds. I believe this is entirely incorrect. The earlier decoy birds were certainly clipped, but I have never seen any evidence that FWS released such birds. (3) While you do not explicitly so state, I think that you strongly imply that the sole motivation of FWS was to create hunting opportunities. It is pretty clear to me that an equally strong motivation was to repatriate a subspecies that had been thought near extinction. Most would agree that this is a laudable goal. (4) You strongly imply that FWS's intent was to establish sedentary populations. I believe the intent was to reestablish populations of at least short distance migrants. True, this may have been a vain and even foolish hope given the brood stocks and methodology employed. But I think that inferring intent from results is not only unsound logic, but also gives the organization more credit for brainpower than it deserves. In looking around for some support for my preexisting notions, I ran across the following article that I think for the most part supports what I've said. So...Correct me if you can, and I'll take my medicine like a man. Otherwise, soldier, I think your excitement at seeing the enemy has led you to shoot from the hip, and that the accuracy of your shot pattern has suffered as a result.

This is one of the myriad reasons I love the blog, and blogging. It's a place to share and learn. A blogger posts a picture of a mystery insect or plant, and out there in cyberland, someone raises a hand. "I know what that is!" Someone points a blunderbuss at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and assigns the wrong intent for a disastrous result, and someone out there in cyberland glides gently in to correct the record. Thanks, KF. As always, you rock. Go read Jack Hope's excellent Audubon article linked in Ken's comments, above. My cheek patches are pink.

In my other life, I've been thinking and writing a lot about "problem" birds lately--house sparrows, gulls, brown-headed cowbirds. It's so easy to excoriate the birds, and it's more difficult and time-consuming to try to understand how they became a problem in the first place. In all of this, the birds are blameless. That finger always points straight back at us.
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