The remarkable story of the recovery and return of Canada Geese to the prairies centres in Wascana Marsh. In the late 1940s, naturalist Ralph Stueck of Abernethy captured a handful of crippled Canada Geese in the fall after regular hunting season ended. Mr. Stueck looked after the geese in his personal sanctuary named "Sleepy Hollow" in Abernethy. Long time conservationist Fred Bard, Director of the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History in Regina, knew Mr. Stueck and obtained a pair of geese from him to raise on his property bordering Wascana Marsh.
Photo credit: Fred Lahrman "Photo taken in 1952 of Ralph Stueck and friends in Abernethy"
In 1953, the first pair of geese named Hiawatha and Queenie arrived at their new home on the shore of Wascana Marsh. Hiawatha and Queenie liked their new home and the first goslings were raised in the Wascana Sanctuary. Mr. Bard obtained a few other Canada Geese to add to his flock. By 1956, there were enough captive geese to allow the release of several birds to fly freely around Wascana Marsh. Within a couple of years the free-flying geese made Wascana their home and started to nest on Goose Island.
Photo credit: Fred Lahrman "Photo taken in 1953 of Fred Bard and geese"
The success of the Wascana Canada Goose Project was recognized far and wide. There was a huge demand to restore Canada Geese to rural Saskatchewan and beyond our borders. In 1961, the first "Goose Roundup" in Wascana resulted in a couple dozen young geese being released at Montmartre and Craven. Over the years offspring from the Wascana Canada Geese have been shipped to Quebec, Florida, New Mexico and British Columbia, all in an effort to establish Canada Goose populations. While two out of three bird species in the world are declining in numbers, the Canada Goose has adapted well to man-made environments and has increased in numbers over the last fifty years.
Photo credit: Fred Lahrman "Photo taken in 1953 of Hiawatha and Queenie"
Each year, about 200 pair of geese nest in Wascana Marsh. Goose Island is the preferred nesting site, as people and dogs are not allowed on the island. The geese return to Wascana in early March each year and begin nesting by early April. The birds mate for life but if one mate dies, the remaining bird will select a new partner. Five to seven eggs are usually laid and incubation is approximately 28 days. Newly hatched goslings can be observed in early May. During the fall, several thousand migratory geese congregate in the Wascana sanctuary. The birds fly out to feed in nearby harvested grain fields during the day and return to the safety of Wascana to spend the nights. The last of the birds will linger into December, migrating south when snow covers available food and the last open water hole freezes over.
Photo credit: Fred Lahrman "Photo taken in May 1967 of Fred Bard shipping goslings"
Photo credit: Fred Lahrman "Photo taken in May 1971 of Fred Bard"