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ILLINOIS - Testing, banding and monitoring birds

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  • ILLINOIS - Testing, banding and monitoring birds

    By John Roszkowski (Deerfield Review, Pionneer Press Local)
    June 29, 2006

    State and federal wildlife biologists say the banding and monitoring of approximately 1,300 Canada geese throughout the Chicagoland region was not just a wild goose chase.

    Experts say the banding, conducted last week in Lake, Cook, McHenry and other suburban counties, will provide them with valuable information on bird migratory patterns. Testing also was done on selected geese to determine if any were infected with the deadly Avian flu virus.

    The goose banding efforts are part of an annual international effort to monitor the waterfowl population, but this year officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture went along to test some of the geese for the avian flu virus.

    Ray Marshalla, a state waterfowl biologist, said the Department of Agriculture testing is merely precautionary at this point. Not a single case of the virulent strain of bird flu which has killed more than 100 people in other countries has been discovered in the United States.

    "So far, no case of Avian flu has been found in North America so it would be really unusual if we found one (of the geese infected)," said Marshalla. However, he noted that the test results on the geese have not yet been completed.

    Marshalla said later this year federal wildlife officials will continue to test other birds that are more likely to be carriers of the virus, including certain species of ducks and shore birds.

    "We're cooperating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They're going to be doing a lot more bird testing. Canada geese are not considered to be the prime carriers of Avian flu," he said.

    In Lake County, biologists corralled and banded a number of the geese at some corporate parks and shopping centers in the Vernon Hills and Buffalo Grove area. Testing and banding also was done in parts of northern Cook County and southeastern McHenry County.

    The banding involves attaching a small aluminum tag to the legs of the geese. Roy Domazlicky, an urban waterfowl project manager for the Department of Natural Resources, said the tags do not harm the geese but provide officials with valuable information about the birds' migratory patterns, survival rates and hunter harvesting rates.

    "It gives us a tremendous amount of information from a management standpoint," he said.

    Some of the geese that have been tagged in Illinois have been found to travel as far north as Hudson Bay in Ontario, while others have been found in states as far away as Idaho and New York.

    The monitoring also is used by the state in setting hunting regulations. In March, the Department of Natural Resources lifted a quota on the number of geese that hunters could kill during the hunting season.

    "The quota limit on Canada geese was lifted because there's no longer a concern over a decline in population in those kinds of birds," said Marcelyn Love, spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.