Date of this Version
The steady increase in the numbers of Canada geese on or near Horicon National Wildlife Refuge since its establishment in the early 1940s has resulted in many opportunities, and a few difficult problems. The problem of crop depredations has plagued the Horicon area since the mid-1960s. Each increase in goose numbers has brought with it renewed farmer concern, and each incident has resulted in some change in goose management direction. Increasing problems, more geese, lower harvest quotas, and the new Wisconsin Wildlife Damage Program combined to encourage the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to take a comprehensive look at the goose depredations issue, in search of a long-term solution. A lack of basic data on the attitudes and concerns of Horicon area farmers hindered resolution of the crop depredation issue. In 1985 the WDNR requested and funded the Wisconsin Canada Goose Survey through the Department of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The survey was to quantify the magnitude and distribution of perceived crop damage and to gather related opinions and attitudes from Horicon area farmers. A random sample of 14% of the farmers in each township in the survey area (841 farmers) received the questionnaire in the mail early in 1986. Each 15 page survey booklet contained 57 numbered questions relating to attitudes toward geese, seasonal effects of geese, crop damage, abatement efforts, and goose management policies. Two more mailings encouraged those who had not responded to make their opinions known. Eighty-two percent of the farmers (650) ultimately returned a usable survey. That response rate represented an 11% sampling of the area's farm population (5960). The survey was replicated in 1987 for the 1986 growing season. The same number of farmers received the survey and response rates were comparable.