Sunday Science: Goose Banding - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Goose Banding

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It takes a lot of manpower and strategy to herd geese.

"So we're all going to be basically moving this way. This is where the pen is, the red X. And we're going to try to move the birds into this pen," says Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologist Amy Alfieri.

Goose-wrangling is an annual tradition here at the Dead Creek Wildlife Refuge in Addison.

"Corralling geese is pretty easy this time of year because the birds are flightless. And they have goslings with them, so the goslings can't fly," says Alfieri.

It's a gradual process that takes a lot of coordination. Volunteers close off the escape routes by land and by water in a canoe. The geese waddle through the field towards the pen in a surprisingly orderly fashion.

"Looks like the birds are heading towards the fence line at this point," says Alfieri.

They stall -- waiting by the fence. That's when the volunteers close in.

"They definitely get a little stressed when they're approaching the pen and they see us closing in on them," she says.

One by one the geese file into the pen, taking their time. Once the last gosling steps through, the gate is quickly closed.

"I'm going to need someone strong and burly and maybe with a bit of stamina to get in the pit with the birds," she says.

Once the birds are scooped out of the pen, they're handed to volunteers, who bring them over to the banding station.

Biologists note the sex and age of the birds and fit each goose with a metal band that has a unique number. This is like a Social Security number for geese, so that biologists can track them if they're caught again or shot and reported in by hunters.

The data from these geese will actually go into a national database. They can track where the geese go, how the population is, and how healthy they are.

"It's sort of like doing hands-on science," says Alfieri. "They get a chance to interact closely with the wildlife, which I think is a very valuable experience and gets people to appreciate the nature that's around them."

And the kids are smiling ear to ear. It was Cameron Castillo's first time.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: "So when you pick up a goose, what do you have to do?"

Cameron: "Hold them tight."

Norah Wilcox has been doing this for years now and she says the geese are feisty.

"They just squirm. They don't really care about anything else, they just want to get away from you," she says.

Once the geese all banded they're released and to nobody's surprise, they waddle straight for the water.

Alfieri told me one thing they have noticed from their data is that snow geese are moving over to New York more. She says that's because there's more leftover corn there for the geese to eat. In the Dead Creek Wildlife Refuge, they try to leave extra corn from the crops to encourage the geese to come back each year.


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