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How many geese in the Wichita area? At least 71,600

Honk if you've heard a lot of honking lately. People who count geese in Wichita every winter counted 71,600 of them on Thursday during the 29th annual winter migratory Canada goose survey.

That shattered the previous record of 41,564 in 2008.

Before that, the highest winter goose count in Wichita was 25,853 in 2004.

Last year, the count was a meager 16,254.

It's not as if Wichita has been sending promotional fliers to goose communities around North America.

The record count was the result of a combination of natural factors, according to Charlie Cope, district wildlife biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Canada geese that start arriving in Wichita in November usually move on to the south.

"This year, they didn't seem to do it," Cope said. "There was no cold weather until January."

And geese that had gone farther south came here, as well, he said.

"We had a bunch in town, then a bunch more showed up," Cope said.

There were no storms in the two or three days before the count, so the geese "just stayed around and loafed," he said.

Nor were the geese out eating in agricultural fields beyond the perimeter of the count. Thanks to the mild weather, they had had their fill, Cope said.

The survey is conducted by the city of Wichita's parks and recreation department, Wildlife and Parks, Friends University, and volunteers and board members of the Great Plains Nature Center. Its purpose isn't to set records, but to get an idea of how many geese are in the Wichita metropolitan area, Cope said.

The survey, conducted annually on the fourth Thursday of every January, has become more scientific in recent years as counters have learned where to find the geese.

There are 10 survey areas in the metropolitan area, and 30 to 40 goose counters cover 292 square miles.

The highest goose count — 18,266 — was in north-central Wichita, from 21st Street to 61st Street North between I-135 and Hoover Road, Cope said.

The next highest count — 10,000 — was in the area immediately west of that site, from Hoover Road to 119th Street West between 21st Street and 61st Street North.

Those areas have many sand pits and new homes with retention ponds and fescue lawns, mimicking the natural habitat of the Canadian goose, Cope said.

Goose counters can't count every goose. They know they are missing a lot, Cope said.

Cue Alfred Hitchcock:

"It's anybody's guess how many there actually are in Sedgwick County," Cope said. "There could be a quarter million."

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