A group of Utah goose hunters took their airboats out on the water in Davis County for an unusual mission. According to Fox 13, members of the Utah Airboat Association did not go hunting last weekend but instead brought straw to build 130 goose nests. Working in teams and moving from nest to nest, the hunters are spending their off-season ensuring that the birds have shelter for hatchlings and protection from predators.

“We’ll pull out the old straw and then we put in this new salt grass hay, and then we wire it in,” said Kerry McCloud, one of the hunters helping in the effort. “And then the geese get in there and pick at it and make a nest out of it.”

It is not the first year that these hunters have been building nests in the area. In fact, McCloud stated that they come back every year around the end of February and early March to lay out new straw. Ferrying large plastic bags filled with grass hay, hunters are usually met with bitterly cold conditions and high snow. Come fall, however, they will be able to see if their work paid off.

Rich Hansen, Division of Natural Resources manager for the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, said it usually does. Almost all of the hunter-created nests are eventually used by geese. McCloud wrote in the Utah Airboat Association’s spring newsletter that when rebuilding nests last year, the hunters found egg shells in nearly every one of the nests. The nests also need little maintenance between the yearly change of straw.

“When used by geese, the survival of the nests is extremely high,” McCloud continued. “They protect the nests and eggs from predators that roam the dikes such as raccoons, coyotes, foxes, etc. Obviously, after the eggs hatch and the goslings hop down, they are more vulnerable but a mother goose can be very formidable.”

Hansen said the nests make all the difference in producing more geese for the fall hunting season.

Image from Maurice Koop on the flickr Creative Commons

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