BILLINGS – Wildlife biologists conduct waterfowl surveys during the first week of every year and have been doing them for a really long time, having jumped in a plane and headed out to count geese and ducks every winter for the past 70 years.
“It’s been going on since 1948, it is actually the oldest waterfowl survey on the continent,” said Jim Hansen.
Biologists survey four main areas in Montana -- the Yellowstone River from Billings to the North Dakota border, the Bighorn River, the Missouri River from Craig to Loma and a portion below Fort Peck Dam.
“This is the benchmark for Canada goose populations and using the data that is obtained we can set regulations that are appropriate,” said Hansen. “It is because of these mid-winter surveys that we have liberal goose regulations now.
These midwinter waterfowl surveys are conducted across the country at the same time to get an estimate on migratory waterfowl and in seven decades, Canada geese have been a major success story.
“Canada geese in the country over that 70 years have probably tripled or quadrupled anyway in that length of time. Canada geese are very adaptable, and they have been doing very well,” Hansen said.
One challenge to this successful goose story, is today with so many geese it can be a lot harder to count them.
The survey results vary from year to year mainly because of weather conditions.