Russia reintroduces endangered geese

Aleutian Canada geese one of the few birds to make it off the endangered list in U.S.

Posted: Monday, August 06, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Efforts are under way to reintroduce the once endangered Aleutian Canada goose, already a success story in the United States, to Russia.

About 18 Aleutian Canada geese flew out of Anchorage in crates Sunday and were headed for Magadan, Russia.

The young geese are a starter flock to be bred in captivity to try to repopulate the species over its entire range, which originally included the Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia, said Karen Boylan of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.

Aleutian Canada geese numbered only several hundred in the United States in the mid-1970s. Now there are an estimated 37,000 birds. They were removed from the government's threatened species list earlier this year - one of the few species to be taken off the list.

Few of the birds - which look like a Canada goose but smaller, and have distinctive white markings around their necks - survived in Russia. They were eaten, mostly by foxes. Most Russia-bound goslings were born on Buldir Island in the western Aleutians.

In Magadan, biologist Nikolai Gerasimov will care for the geese. He will breed them until he has a large enough population to release to a fox-free island.

Most are goslings and have to be fed through tubes every few hours, Boylan said. One gosling was raised at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. Its mother had been killed by an eagle, and its nest-mates didn't live.

The birds traveled from Kodiak to Anchorage on Friday night. They were checked out by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage and sent off to their new home.

Aleutian Canada geese had nearly died out in the Aleutians and in Russia because fur farmers and trappers brought foxes to about 190 islands where they nested.

Fox farming began in the last half of the 18th century and continued into the 20th century, Fish and Wildlife reports say. Scientists saw no Aleutian Canada geese in the Aleutians between 1938 and 1959, when government biologists spotted several on Buldir Island.

For the past 35 years, federal officials have been killing foxes to bring back the geese. Now many islands are bursting with the sounds of birds, while some still contain goose predators and are quiet.

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