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Wilson Hill Goose Drive

Region 6 Natural Resource Highlight

Every summer, DEC wildlife staff conduct goose roundups on a couple Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). These are true roundups (drives) in the way that staff and volunteers, using canoes and walking along the shore, "herd" the geese the entire length of the WMA and into holding pens at one end. This is only possible because geese molt (lose) all their flight feathers in late June and early July, making them unable to fly. Biologists then age, determine the sex, band and release them back into the marsh.

Young boy holding a goose

The Wilson Hill Goose Drive is held late June or early July, mid-week, starting around 8:00 AM at the headquarters building. Anyone wishing to assist is asked to contact the Potsdam office at 315-265-3090 by mid-June.

The Wilson Hill WMA annual goose drive has two important goals. First, to obtain biological data on resident Canada geese and second, to bring together as many people and organizations as possible at a conservation event to improve communication and understanding. The goose drive is very successful on both counts.

First conducted in 1974, over 30,000 geese have been rounded up at Wilson Hill. An average of over 1,100 birds are rounded up each year. The highest number was in 1989 with a total of 1,966 geese.

Many of these birds have been banded previously, which provides valuable data. One use of this information is to track the growth and movements of New York's resident goose population. In 1990, this data showed a local goose population that needed to be controlled and DEC allowed a special ten-day, early Canada Goose season in New York for 340 square miles of northeastern St. Lawrence County. This special goose hunting season now takes place across the entire state during the month of September.

Every year, over 140 people help with the Wilson Hill Goose Drive. People are needed to pilot canoes, walk the shores to prevent escapes, and handle geese. Volunteers include sportsmen, bird watchers, college students, 4-H groups, high school science classes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ducks Unlimited and others. DEC staff from all over the state, from many different units, have participated in the roundup, many as unpaid volunteers. Everyone that assists are also treated to a lunch that day by the local Rod and Gun Club.

This goose drive is often the training grounds for new wildlife staff. They receive training on how to handle a large number of birds, the proper techniques of aging and sexing geese, and learn the correct way to measure their anatomical features.

family holding geese

The goose drive also provides a great forum for everyone to exchange ideas and learn from one another. For many of the volunteers this is the only time they have an opportunity to meet agency staff from outside the area. There is sharing of photographs, many of which go into photo albums that chronicle the event through the years. These are always available at the goose drive for everyone to enjoy.

For additional information about Wilson Hill, call the Wilson Hill Project Manager at 315-705-5539.

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