Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Tale of Two Species -- Canada Geese and Raccoons


One of two nesting geese currently in Central Park. (Note broken egg shells in front of nest.)
 
As expected, the explanation by Central Park Conservancy for sudden loss of most Canada goose eggs this spring, is "raccoons."
.
Those familiar with this blog know that I have been skeptical of this theory for numerous reasons, primary among them, the long running policy of the Conservancy to addle and/or destroy goose eggs and usually being loathe to admit to it.
.
But, there are other reasons as well.
.
It was for example, difficult to imagine raccoons successfully fending off defensive attack by both, the nesting hen and her gander to protect their eggs. Geese are quite formidable when nesting and will use wings and bills to literally "beat off" any threats to their nests. (No animal unless desperately hungry wants to risk injury to get a meal if they don't have to -- and with all the available "free" food in Central Park during spring, raccoons are not desperate at all.) Secondly, goose eggs are large and they are heavy. It would be virtually impossible for a raccoon to carry away such cumbersome cargo in their mouths or hands or to try and consume them in front of two angry geese.
.
While perhaps convenient to blame an omnivorous predator for goose egg losses, the explanation didn't make sense with what we know about geese and raccoons.
.
Nevertheless, not wanting to go strictly by my own observations and perceptions, I sought to find information and/or documentation to the actual facts of any raccoon depredations on goose eggs.
.
My first stop was YouTube which contains videos on just about everything. I typed in, "Raccoon depredation of eggs," "Raccoon attacks on geese," and came up with nothing other than raccoons eating chicken eggs that people gave to them.  
.
I then Googled similar subject matter and finally found, what seems to be documented evidence and confirmation of what was already suspected:  Raccoons do not represent viable threat to Canada goose eggs (for all the reasons described) unless a larger predator such as a coyote creates an "opening" by either killing or successfully chasing off nesting geese.
.
.
In the article above, it was discovered through the use of surveillance cameras over a two year period, that it was coyotes who represented substantial threat to goose eggs and were in fact, responsible for significant egg losses in Chicago. Geese were more than capable of "beating off" smaller predators such as raccoons and possums. In 45 filmed attempts of raccoons near goose eggs, only one raccoon was actually successful in stealing an egg -- and that was only after sustaining wing beatings of geese and one goose actually jumping on and pecking the raccoon's back. Even the writer of the article refers to the successful raccoon as "very hungry and desperate."  (Note: There are neither coyotes nor desperately hungry raccoons in Central Park.)
.
But, even if we didn't have documented video surveillance of geese successfully defending nests from suspected predators (in one case, even chasing off a coyote), one could surmise raccoons weren't a strong threat against waterfowl in general. Were that the case, mallards would not wander so freely and confidently among raccoons which is observed frequently in Central Park.
.
Currently, there are two remaining and known nesting goose pairs in Central Park. Both, the hens and their ganders are vigilant and completely devoted to each other and to duty.
.
Unfortunately, neither I nor my friends are optimistic any of the eggs will hatch.
.
In a few weeks, when presumably watching again, the distress of the geese when realizing their eggs are lifeless and unviable, we will however, not be cursing raccoons.   -- PCA
.
.
.                                              **********

No comments: