Canada Geese Return to Southern Illinois
FRANKLIN COUNTY -- For the last week and a half, the honking of Canada geese is being heard a lot more in our region.
"We've been getting several thousand coming down the river every day," explained waterfowl guide Gary McCree. "Big bunches, they start out when the migration starts, you'll see bunches of fifteen, twenty, twenty-five. You know when the migration is really kicking into gear, we start getting bunches of a hundred, hundred fifty in a flock."
Before last week, it had been years since the large flocks made it this far south. The lack of Canadas forced hunting clubs like McCree's to change their practices.
"We started turning our spreads white for snow geese and speckled-bellies because we were getting the snows and the specks and not getting the Canadas," said McCree. "This year, we're actually shooting more Canadas than snows and specks."
Many geese travelling to Southern Illinois spend their time at one of the refuges. Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge has historically been managed specifically for geese.
"Out last waterfowl count was roughly eleven thousand geese on the refuge," explained Crab Orchard Refuge park ranger Neil Vincent. "Those numbers are up quite a bit, compared to the last couple years."
While the numbers are higher, they still don't compare to the 80's and 90's when Crab Orchard saw more than 100,000 geese annually. Park rangers say no-till farming in the Upper Midwest keep the geese from migrating to Southern Illinois.
"Some people say you don't get the snow, but you actually need more snow now than what we traditionally used to get to cover up that extra feed leftover," said Vincent.
Right now, people like McCree are just happy while they're around.
"It reminds you of what it's supposed to be like in Southern Illinois," said McCree.
Crab Orchard's policy has been to maintain enough food to feed sixty to ninety thousand geese for a 60 day period, but the lack of geese in recent years has prompted refuge managers to rethink that practice.
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