California’s Aleutian Goose Festival

The inhabitants of the small town of Crescent City, situated in rural northwestern California, invite bird and nature lovers everywhere to join them in celebrating the annual Aleutian Goose Festival. The 2008 event, which takes place from 28 to 30 March, will be the 10th annual Aleutian Goose Festival held in honor of these remarkable birds which have been snatched back from the brink of extinction.

A highlight of the Aleutian Goose Festival is the unforgettable sight and sound of tens of thousands of birds rising from their island night-time resting place in numbers that blot out the light of the rising sun as they head for their daily feeding grounds. Virtually the entire Aleutian Canada Goose population arrives in Del Norte County, California, in March each year, remaining for a number of weeks to rest and feed in preparation for their 2,000 mile, three day, non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean to their breeding grounds in the remote Aleutian chain of islands. This pre-flight fattening up is vital, because during their epic journey the geese lose up to a third of their body weight, yet they need to arrive at their destination healthy enough to successfully breed and raise their families.

Although the Aleutian Goose Festival is centered on the activities of the geese, with dawn fly-off sightings and trips to see them feeding in outlying farmland areas, visitors are encouraged to join local and regional naturalists, botanists, ornithologists and historians to enjoy a multitude of nature, bird watching and heritage outings. American Indians from the Tolowa and Yurok tribes, who live in their original tribal areas, offer visitors a unique cultural experience, giving insight into their history and their present way of life.

The Aleutian Canadian Goose population was nearly wiped out as a direct result of the greed of humans. During the 1800s Russian fur trappers set foxes loose on all the Aleutian Islands in the hope that they would breed and thereby boost their fur trade. The foxes quickly adapted to their new home and proceeded to catch and eat all the geese as well as other wildlife. The Aleutian goose was recognized as being an endangered species in 1967 when they numbered less than 500. Over a long period of time no sightings were reported, leading experts to believe that they had become extinct. But thanks to the hard work of dedicated conservationists who found and captured some geese, by 2001 the species had recovered to the extent of being taken off the endangered species list – a rare and rewarding achievement. The Aleutian Canada Goose now numbers more than 60,000 in Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain and efforts are being made by Japanese, Russian and American scientists to aid the beautiful birds to return to their original breeding grounds on the islands connecting Russia and Japan.

With a three day program crammed full of excitement, fun and learning, the Aleutian Goose Festival is an event that bird and nature lovers would not want to miss, as like-minded people gather to enjoy a celebration of the wonders of nature.