Nine populations of geese occur in Kansas, with all but one, the Eastern Prairie Canada Goose Population, being at, or above, their population objective. Kansas is located within the Central Flyway and shares its goose resources with the other states of that Flyway, Canada, and to a lesser extent the Mississippi Flyway.
The primary goose populations occurring in Kansas originate from the Arctic regions of Canada, provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and east tier states of the Central Flyway (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas itself). Throughout North America geese are managed at the population level. Within the Central Flyway, goose populations are usually defined as being composed of one or more races or species, grouped in aggregations based on wintering range similarities. This approach is a mix of biology and politics which facilitates the management of these species.
Of the nine populations of geese that occur in Kansas, seven occur in significant numbers at some time during the annual cycle. The resident Canada geese are members of the Great Plains Population which range from the southern areas of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, through North Dakota and south into northern Texas. The other population of large Canada geese which occurs in Kansas is the Western Prairie Population, which nests in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba and winters from North Dakota south to northern Texas. These two populations are comprised of large birds ( Branta canadensis maxima, moffitti and interior), and are largely the results of restoration efforts throughout their range. The Great Plains and Western Prairie Populations are managed jointly through one management plan.
In contrast to the large Canada geese, small Canada geese, light geese and white-fronted geese tend to nest farther north in the Arctic regions of the continent. Although they nest farther north than large Canada’s, they tend to winter farther south, with small Canada’s, white-fronts and light geese being common along the GulfCoast and south into Mexico.
Two populations of small Canada geese occur in Kansas. Members of the Tall Grass Prairie Population are oriented to the eastern two thirds of the state, while the Short Grass Prairie Population is found in the western third of Kansas. These two populations are comprised of small races of Canada geese ( B. C. Parvipes and Hutchinsii).
One population of white-fronted geese and two populations of light (lesser snow geese and Ross') geese also occur here. The Mid-Continent Population of white-fronted geese ( Anser albifrons frontalis) occurs throughout Kansas during the migration and winter seasons, but is most common in the mid-section of the state. The Mid-Continent Population of light geese is composed primarily of lessor snow geese ( Anser caerulescens caerulescens), with some Ross’ geese ( Anser rossii), and is most common in the eastern third of the state, while the Western Central Flyway Population of light geese occurs on the extreme western edge of Kansas and includes a significant proportion of Ross' geese.
In addition to the seven primary populations of geese which occur in Kansas, two populations of Canada geese common to the Mississippi Flyway visit our state. The first, the Eastern Prairie Population (EPP), comprise a significant proportion of the geese which winter at, or near, the Marais des CygnesWA, and may contribute a major share of the Canada goose harvest at that area and throughout southeast Kansas during some years. EPP Canada geese consist of B. C. interior race and nest in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of Manitoba and winter primarily in Missouri. Unlike other populations of geese common to Kansas, and those in the Central Flyway, it remains very near, or below the population objective.
The second population of Canada geese that occurs in Kansas, but originates in the Mississippi Flyway, comes from the Mississippi Flyway Giant Population. A segment of the restoration birds from Minneapolis, Minnesota, which belong to this population, developed a migration pattern to Wichita, Kansas. It is possible that up to 40 percent of the Canada goose harvest in SedgwickCounty is composed of geese from Minnesota.
Currently, with the exception of EPP geese, all populations of geese common to Kansas are at or above their population objectives. In fact, light goose populations have increased to the point where they are causing significant long-term damage to their breeding habitat.
The history of goose management in Kansas and the Central Flyway is one of success. During the early 1960’s slightly more than 200,000 Canada geese were observed during the winter surveys in the Central Flyway. In January 2001, approximately 1.25 million were reported. Not all geese are observed or reported during operational surveys, but the trend is obvious, and utilized for management decisions. The numbers for white-fronts, Ross’ geese and Snow geese show the same trends, with light goose (Ross’ and snow geese) numbers being more than double the population objective. Wild nesting Canada geese occurred in fewer than six counties in our state immediately prior to 1980, when the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks initiated the most recent restoration effort. Since that time resident Canada geese have been established throughout the state where suitable habitat occurs, including all counties in the eastern two-thirds of the state.