Geese invade county
Whether green wheat fields, ice-free lake water, or good weather conditions attract them, there is no disputing the fact that thousands of Canada geese have made Marion County home this past week.
“There are at least 2,000 of them on the lake today,” Brian Thiessen, Marion County Park and Lake assistant manager said on Tuesday. “They like to congregate in pockets on the ice to keep it warm. They like the places where water is flowing.”
Thiessen said the geese were good for people who enjoyed watching them but otherwise caused problems, such as contributing to blue-green algae and leaving a big mess of droppings.
“There seems to be a large number of them,” he said. “Usually they migrate through earlier in fall, but they came and are sticking around. I guess they like it here.”
It is possible that the geese are calling Marion County home for the time being because large portions of the McPherson Valley Wetlands are dry and inhospitable to waterfowl at this time. Shallow ponds and pools froze in the recent cold snap, sending the geese on a hunt for free-flowing water.
Wetlands ranger Brent Theede said all but two pools of water in the entire wetlands area, which used to cover 125 square miles, are currently dry.
Large groups of Canada geese winging their way across Marion County farm ground are stopping in wheat fields to eat as they make their way between bodies of water.
“There’s not much I can do about it,” Hillsboro farmer Lloyd Funk said. “They have killed at least an acre or two of my wheat just south of Hillsboro. People have asked if they could shoot them there, but I didn’t give permission so close to town.”
Funk said he did not mind feeding the birds, but he knew others would rather eat them.
Casey Case of Marion enjoys goose hunting on a regular basis. He said Marion County lies between two major migration flyways for the geese, the Central Flyway over McPherson County and west, and the Mississippi Flyway to the east. Still, geese are attracted locally to the open water at the lake and reservoir and abundant wheat fields.
“We used to be able to hunt them in the corn fields,” Case said. “But since the corn has done poorly the past two years, they are settling for wheat. It’s harder to sneak up on them in a wheat field.”
Case said geese hunters needed to have Federal and State Water Fowl Stamps and a regular hunting license. In addition, he said there were specific gun regulations they needed to follow. He also said goose meat was good to eat.
“I like to fillet the breast off and marinate it, and then grill it just like a steak,” he said. “It is amazing how much meat there is, at least a pound, close to two on some.”
Case said the red meat was best if not overcooked. He also enjoyed taking it to a processer for summer sausage.
“I haven’t got as many as usual yet,” he said. “But the six to eight guys I hunt with, we get 60 to 70 each year.”
Ron Kaufman, director of information for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, said the legal hunting season for Canada geese ran from Nov. 7 to Feb. 10. Hunters must obtain permission from landowners and Canada geese are protected in city limits or on preserves such as Marion County Park and Lake.