It’s not like Louisiana’s waterfowl biologists need another feather in their caps. For decades, our state’s experts have scored big gains for the species they manage and the hunters who benefit from their efforts.
Today, the big news comes from Paul Link, a Wildlife and Fisheries biologist and a key man in the State Waterfowl Study team.
Link outlined the study team’s latest coup, a groundbreaking telemetry project on specklebelly geese during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s meeting in Lake Charles.
The background here is that Louisiana overwintered the majority of specks — biologists call them “white fronted” geese — but numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years.
And like hunters who spend the entire year prepping to hunt for their two “specks” daily limit, state biologists wanted to determine the hows, whys and wherefores for this decline.
So Link and his cohorts decided to tackle a project biologists in other states had tried but didn’t gain even so much as a toehold: They wanted to track specklebellies, try to determine population densities, and get at least a reason or two to explain why this species is finding winter homes elsewhere in the Deep South.
Link said other southern states at the end of the Mississippi and Central flyways tried to capture specks, but failed. Louisiana is in the Mississippi Flyway, but borders on the Central.
“I guess we have a crew here who doesn’t like to be told that it can’t be done,” Link told the commission.
State teams have used rocket-propelled nets to trap wood ducks for banding projects for years, and came up with a plan to use the nets on specklebellies — and it worked.
Link said two weeks netted 79 birds, and then the work began. He said the team was able to secure, through private donations, state-of-the-art $3,000 telemetry packs complete with transmitters fitted into a neck collar that, he said, “took about 90 seconds,” to affix the collar and release the birds.
“This is cutting-edge technology,” Link said, explaining the collars transmit GPS locations to three cellular towers, use satellite monitoring and can store up to 45,000 locations for each bird on a hard drive in the unit, a factor that allows tracking specks where there are no cell towers on Arctic breeding grounds. The transmitters can last as long as four years, Link said.
Link said solar-powered batteries allow data to be transmitted every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day to give the study team locations for each bird.
He said the collars are not readily visible to hunters and if a hunter takes one of these specially collared geese, they are to cut the collar from the goose, call his cell phone number listed on the collar, and the state team will retrieve the collar for use on another bird.
Maybe answers will come, but for now score another win for Louisiana’s crew.