Managers have assumed that migratory geese regularly interchange among wintering refuges, providing a potential to manage them as a complex. The primary purpose of our study was to determine population affiliation and magnitude of goose movements among 4 national wildlife refuges (NWR) in Tennessee and northern Alabama, thereby assessing the feasibility of this approach. Interchange and population affiliation were examined using neck collar observations from 1977-1998. Population affiliation varied among refuges, with Southern James Bay geese being most common at Wheeler NWR, and Mississippi Valley geese being most common at Reelfoot NWR. Only 5.1% of 11,039 different blue-and orange-collared geese observed at the 4 refuges were observed at more than 1 refuge during the entire study period. Less interchange occurred within individual years of the study; only 1.5% of 13,680 collared geese was observed at more than 1 refuge during a single season, and none were observed on 3 or more refuges. Most interchange occurred between the 2 closest Tennessee refuges, about 50 km apart. However, even this interchange was negligible, not exceeding 2% in any given year and was less than 3.5% throughout the 20-year period. Our findings suggest that Canada geese wintering at these refuges exhibit high site fidelity, and this fidelity should be considered when developing management strategies and setting harvest regulations.
Wildlife Outstanding Technical Paper