Goose fall migration tells story of warming climate

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It is hoped that the $9.5 million Marsh Lake restoration project will restore waterfowl numbers coming to the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area in coming years.

Detailed, long-term global studies of the Earth’s temperatures point to a steady warming that has been going on for at least a couple decades. But in western Minnesota nature has been telling wildlife biologists that things are warming just by their changing habits.

“You could look at your calendar and on Sept. 13 the first migratory geese would come down from Canada,” Department of Natural Resources Regional Wildlife Manager Dave Trauba told the Swift County Board of Commissioners at their Oct. 4 meeting. But, now, that has changed.

Trauba wasn’t at the meeting to talk about geese or the climate. Rather he was momentarily sidetracked from a conversation about the need for an additional land acquisition for the Marsh Lake restoration project when he was asked about current waterfowl numbers at the WMA. Trauba served 24 years as manager of the Lac qui Parle WMA before being named to his regional job with the DNR.

When he arrived at the Lac qui Parle WMA near Appleton the Canada goose population would peak out at 150,000 by mid-October, a month after the southern migration had begun.

“Literally, we have weekly counts going back to the 1950s on when geese arrive and their peak numbers,” he said. “But even in the mid-1990s, the migratory geese weren’t arriving on the 13th of September anymore. They were starting to arrive the first week in October.”

The WMA can still see big numbers of geese on the refuge, 100,000 or so, but the numbers can be considerably less. However, another change is that the geese that do come are staying longer.

“All of a sudden, they are staying into late November and even December,” he said. “Back when Arlen Anderson was the manager, the geese would be gone by the first week in November.”

 

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Pictured: It is hoped that the $9.5 million Marsh Lake restoration project will restore waterfowl numbers coming to the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area in coming years.

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