Weatherford Democrat

April 13, 2014

NOW HEAR THIS: Going on a wild goose chase


Weatherford Democrat

— By LARRY M. JONES

In recent years I’ve written quite a bit about the introduction and negative consequences of non-native or invasive species. Fire ants, killer bees, English sparrows, Asian carp, feral hogs and others too numerous to list have forever changed our local ecosystem.

Since many of these interlopers have no native predators, nor environmental control mechanisms to keep their numbers in check, they often cause great problems.

We quickly see the changes when non-native species are added to our environment. This adds another player in the survival game. However, more subtle changes take place in the habits and behavior of even our native species. They have to adapt whenever additions or changes occur. I can’t prove it one way or the other, but I have read several reports that since the explosion of the feral hog population, rattlesnakes are far less likely to rattle when threatened. Supposedly, the noisy snakes are first to be eaten by the hogs.

Another native species that has learned to adapt easily to the pressures of civilization is the Canadian goose. Growing up on the “pore farm,” never once did I see a Canadian goose, nor did I know of anyone ever hunting them. I know that they passed overhead on their annual migrations, but they never seemed to stop in this area. Perhaps they were attracted to areas where more wheat and other grains were grown on a wider scale during the winter. However, this area with extensive peanut farming was a prime stopover for millions of migrating ducks, particularly mallards. Today, ducks are becoming more infrequent as visitors, and geese are becoming commonplace.

The only goose I ever heard of being killed in early years was one accidentally shot by my uncle. Long before my time, probably in the 1920s, my father and his brothers were shooting my grandfather’s old “citizen’s rifle,” a .45-70 Trapdoor Springfield that was U.S. Army issue throughout the last part of the 19th Century. As a “V” shaped flight of geese flew by their house almost a quarter mile away, my uncle raised the rifle, elevating it for the long range, and fired at the gaggle. Amazingly, a single bird tumbled to the ground. My father recalled that Grandma Jones cooked it and, compared to duck, it was absolutely delicious.

In recent years, I have seen quite a few geese in this area. These are not migratory birds on their way from their Northern breeding grounds, but are what have become known as “golf course geese,” quite a nuisance in certain areas. There’s quite a group of them that apparently have become established on a large lake on the old Hall place just west of Brock.

I see them regularly in groups ranging from a pair up to 25-30 birds. Currently, there is a pair staying on my large stock tank below my house, and they regularly go back and forth from my wheat field to the water. They even wander right up to my backyard fence, paying no attention to my “fat red dog.” Although technically “wild,” these birds have begun to feel quite at home on the “pore farm,” and I don’t have to travel far for a wild goose chase.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County.