Brian G. Fagundes; Humboldt State University;; Jeffrey M. Black, Cliff Feldheim, Michael Casazza

The Aleutian cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia) recovered from near extinction and was delisted in 2001 but the population increase led to conflicts with private landowners. Thousands of migrating geese stage each spring to feed on livestock pastures in Humboldt County. Despite coordinated hazing plans and hunting seasons to scare geese from private lands to adjacent public lands, a wildlife-agricultural dilemma exists between geese and livestock producers who view the geese as pasture competitors. To help shift perceptions from conflict management to broader social-ecological systems management, we investigated if geese provided ecosystem services via the fertilizing effect of droppings on pasture vegetation using a greenhouse experiment from February to August 2019. We documented the addition of goose droppings to simulated goose-grazed pasture vegetation increased forage production in newly sown ryegrass pasture (range 107.9 % - 333.8 % worth $79 - $243/acre) and established pasture (range 12.3 % - 44.6 % worth $69 - $251/acre), providing improved summertime hay harvests two- and four-months post-treatment. These results indicate that a mutualistic relationship likely exists between wild Aleutian geese and cattle. Continued research using field-based experimental methods is needed to bolster support for holistic management of grasslands to benefit geese and livestock.

Infrastructure and Landscape Effects on Wildlife   Student Paper InPerson Presentation