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Spek Bags Richardson's Goose
January 4, 2008.
In our December 30th update, I noted that HTW Pro-Staffer Paul Vanderspek and I took a total of 3 geese on a very cold morning hunt in eastern Colorado. One of the geese that Spek shot was quite small (a little bigger than a mallard), and we generically thought of it as a Lesser Canada Goose.
After a friend reviewed the photo and talked to Spek, however, we realized that he appeared to have bagged a Richardson's Goose.
The Richardson's goose is a type of Cackling Goose. The Cackling Goose was originally considered to be the same species or a subspecies of the Canada Goose, but in July 2004 the American Ornithologists' Union's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature split the two into two species, making Cackling Goose into a fully separate species with the scientific name Branta hutchinsii. (The Canada Goose is Branta canadensis).
A website titled "Cackling Goose -- Canada Goose Subspecies Identification Indicators" gives this description of a Richardson's Goose:
"This subspecies is small in size, about 3 to 7 lbs., and light colored, with pale breast; bill appears stubby; white on cheeks usually continuous across chin; short neck; seldom has a white collar.... Breeds widely on the arctic tundra; winters mostly in Texas and Mexico."
If you happen to shoot what appears to be an unusually small goose with a stubby beak, it's well worth doing some research to understand exactly what you've bagged.
Spek's great regret was that his Colorado Richardson's ended up wrapped in cellophane in his freezer, rather than at his taxidermist....