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Snow geese stacking up at the Saskatchewan border

Hunters looking for the famous “blizzard of snows” during the Kenmare GooseFest may have to wait a while.

10/23/13 (Wed)

Snows could be here by Saturday

By Caroline Downs

Hunters looking for the famous “blizzard of snows” during the Kenmare GooseFest may have to wait a while.

As of Monday, Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge personnel counted only 10--yes, that’s 10--snow geese staged on the refuge lakes.

Calvin Moldenhauer, prescribed fire specialist, said he and other staff members drove the refuge Monday from the southern end near Baden Hill to the Canadian border.

“The snow geese we saw were mixed in with about a thousand dark geese,” he said, adding that refuge personnel estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 Canada geese on the lakes.

Duck numbers, on the other hand, have been strong, with some migrants now arriving to mix in with the high numbers of local ducks hatched this season. Moldenhauer said between 15,000 and 20,000 ducks are using the refuge at this time, with high numbers of mallards and pintails in those flocks.

“And there are probably 200 swans,” he said, “mainly on the south end of the refuge.”

He noted that during the four hours personnel were out monitoring the lakes for waterfowl, between 10 am and 2 pm Monday, no migrating flocks were observed. “We didn’t see anything flying,” he said, “but we’ll see what the snow does.”

Refuge manager Chad Zorn said he’s had reports of about 5,000 snow geese using the north end of the refuge, but he hasn’t seen those birds himself. “Some of the larger sloughs out there could be holding snow geese, too,” he said.

He said hunters and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service personnel in the Crosby area are reporting scattered sightings of snow geese.

“I’m also hearing the snow geese are starting to stack up across the border [in Saskatchewan],” he added. “With the weather, the numbers we have here could change drastically this week. By Saturday, the snow geese could be here.”

The area surrounding the Des Lacs NWR became popular among hunters starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the Kenmare GooseFest took flight. The region typically attracts tens and even hundreds of thousands of snow geese during their fall migration.

However, the abundance of food and wetlands this year and generally mild fall temperatures have delayed the snow goose migration. The forecast for the coming week shows highs ranging from the 30s to the low 50s, with chances of mixed precipitation.