Beyond the borders
Crew bands Canada geese at Presque Isle
MARQUETTE — They were seen swimming just off the Presque Isle Park shoreline, seemingly none the worse for wear.
Those Canada geese had just been banded by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday morning at the park.
Caleb Eckloff, a wildlife technician for the DNR’s Marquette Customer Service Center, donned waders — and a face mask — as part of the crew involved in the banding project.
The objective of the activity, he said, was to place numerically numbered bands on Canada geese for the North America-wide tracking of the birds.
“If they’re ever harvested by a hunter, turned in after they happened to be hit by a vehicle or something like that, we can then determine where they were banded, the age at their time of banding and where they ended up,” Eckloff said. “With that information, along with the total number of birds that we band, we can actually figure out a population estimate.”
The goal it to learn about their migratory patterns and better manage geese across the landscape, he said.
First, the geese to be banded had to be corralled into a pen.
“It’s actually a simpler task than you might imagine,” Eckloff said. “A week prior to and after the Fourth of July, the birds actually lose their flight feathers. So, they can’t go anywhere.”
Once a group of birds was identified, a corral made of PVC and netting was set up.
“We gently surround the birds and coax them into the corral, and from there we close the wings, and they’re all set to band,” Eckloff said.
He noted that geese banding was to take place in Marquette only on Wednesday, but they hoped to band birds in Escanaba and other sites in the Upper Peninsula at a later time.
Canada geese are migratory birds, so ramifications from the banding project go beyond local borders.
“This is a statewide endeavor, but banding geese is actually continental-wide,” Eckloff said. “Canada is very big into it, and a lot of the Great Lakes states especially.”
He said that not only do banders have to place a band on the leg, they have to determine gender and age.
Gender means simply male or female, but age is determined as the hatch year or after-hatch year.
“Hatch year means they were born sometime this spring,” Eckloff said. “After-hatch year just means it was an adult, born this spring prior or sometime before that.”
The geese might have had to endure a little stress during the banding process, but efforts were made to lessen any potential problems, such as banding them in the morning on Wednesday.
“We tried to band the birds while it was still cool for their safety and ours,” Eckloff said.
Ultimately, though, the project should help the species.
Erin Kamps, wife of Conservation Officer John Kamps, helped band the geese on Presque Isle.
“It is fairly easy to learn,” said said. “It’s kind of hard to figure out if they’re male or female, but Caleb’s a great coach.”
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org