More Than 2,000 Migrating Snow Geese Found Dead in Idaho

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March 25, 2015

More Than 2,000 Migrating Snow Geese Found Dead in Idaho
Idaho Department of Fish & Game staff and volunteers had to work quickly last week to remove more than 2,000 dead snow geese that apparently succumbed to avian cholera to prevent animals and other birds such as eagles from feeding on the carcasses and becoming infected. You’ll also read about a federal bill that would allow sportsmen to hunt wild bison in Grand Canyon National Park, and much more!

Avian Cholera Suspected as Thousands of Geese Die at Idaho WMAs
The Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) is reporting staff and volunteers collected the carcasses of approximately 2,000 migrating snow geese that appeared to have succumbed to avian cholera and died while stopping at Mud Lake and Market Lake Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), on their way to nesting grounds in Northern Alaska.

The carcasses were collected and will be incinerated so that other predatory and scavenger birds do not ingest the deadly bacteria. Results are not yet back from the IDFG Wildlife Laboratory to definitively confirm avian cholera, but apparent symptoms seem to indicate the disease. According to the U.S. Geological Survey Health Laboratory, humans are not at a high risk of infection from the bacteria causing avian cholera.

J.R. Absher
J.R. Absher

The carcasses of a small number of snow geese were first reported at Camas National Wildlife Refuge near Dubois, Idaho. Closer inspection on Friday found higher numbers of dead birds at the Mud Lake WMA Area near Terreton, and a lesser amount at Market Lake WMA near Roberts. The migratory birds were on the return leg of their migration from the southwestern United States and Mexico to their breeding grounds on the northern coast of Alaska. It is unknown at this time where the geese may have picked up the suspected bacteria.

“Outbreaks of avian cholera have occurred sporadically in the region over the past few decades,” said Upper Snake Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt. “The important thing is to quickly collect as many of the carcasses as possible, to prevent other birds from feeding on the infected birds.”

Iowa Senate Passes Families Afield Bill
The Iowa Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to create an apprentice hunting license for adults. The measure, SF 392, permits a first-time hunter to try hunting under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor, prior to completing a hunter education course. This approach has been adopted across the country through the Families Afield program.

A companion measure in the Iowa House of Representatives is also moving forward. HF 577 passed the Committee on Natural Resources last week and is currently pending before the full House of Representatives.

“Apprentice hunting licenses have proven to be a safe and effective means of introducing new hunters to our ranks,” said Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) vice president of government affairs. “Iowa already allows youth hunters to participate in this manner. This bill simply expands current law so that a new hunter of any age can experience hunting with a mentor.”

Families Afield is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Along with the support of the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the coalition has passed measures in 35 states. The Iowa Conservation Alliance has also given the measure its support.

19th Annual Great Texas Birding Classic Approaching
Registration deadline for the 19th annual Great Texas Birding Classic is April 1, and hundreds of avid and backyard birders alike will head to the coast, forests, prairies and mountains to compete in the nation’s biggest, longest and wildest bird watching tournament April 15 – May 15.

Last year, more than 400 competitors – individuals and teams – competed in the Birding Classic, documenting a record 425 species out of Texas’ 639 documented avian species. The 2014 event attracted a record-breaking 81 teams that competed from the Texas Panhandle to the Golden Triangle in southeast Texas in a host of regional and statewide daylong and weeklong tournaments.

“The Birding Classic is a wonderful opportunity for bird watching enthusiasts and all nature lovers to gather with family and friends to see how many bird species they can spot in a few hours, a full day, or even a few days in a row,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “I want everyone to know that this is a fun event that anyone, regardless of their age or ability, will enjoy.”

Bill Introduced to Permit Hunting of Grand Canyon NP Bison
On March 18, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, together with U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, introduced the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act, which would allow the use of hunting as a wildlife management tool on what has become a problematic free-roaming population of bison within the park.

In recent decades, the bison abundance, distribution, unfettered reproduction and movement in and near the Grand Canyon’s North Rim have impacted both natural and cultural resources within the Park.

Specifically, the act would require both the U.S. Department of Interior and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to coordinate on producing a plan that allows sportsmen holding a valid state-issued hunting license to manage the bison population within the park through culling.

“The introduction of this bill is a positive step toward ensuring the bison population remains in proper balance to allow for the recovery of natural habitat within the Grand Canyon National Park,” said Game and Fish Commission Chairman Robert Mansell. “We thank and look forward to partnering with our Arizona Congressional Delegation in support of this commonsense bill that benefits the Grand Canyon, the State of Arizona, our wildlife conservation efforts and local businesses.”

Quote of the Week
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined or determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
– Cesare Beccaria,
Essay on Crimes and Punishment,” 1764

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at


Top Photo: Idaho Department of Fish and Game had to remove dead snow geese to prevent animals and other birds such as eagles from feeding on the carcasses and becoming infected


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One Response to “More Than 2,000 Migrating Snow Geese Found Dead in Idaho”

  1. TrailMixNC

    Sad story about a very graceful animal.