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Preventing extinction is worth the effort

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Al Weaver, guest columnist

In the American culture we have answered that question. We realign highways to save habitat for endangered turtles or salamanders. On the west coast they have nearly shut down an entire industry to protect small fish. As a society we elected to save species that have become endangered of extinction. We believe that an extinction is not to be tolerated.

The species Branta Canadensis (the Canada goose) consists of several subspecies. One of which is Branta Canadensis Maxima. This subspecies of the Canada goose was officially written down in history as “extinction” in the 1930s. Biologists determined that this subspecies that suffered the fact of the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon. An entire species had become extinct.

But, fate held a reprieve for Branta Canadensis Maxima. In 1963, Dr. Harold Hanson was conducting a research project on Silver Lake in Rochester, Minn. His purpose was focused on other subspecies of Canada goose but in his research a few birds were distinctly unique from all the others. Dr. Hanson had in fact unwittingly discovered a handful of Canada geese that were in fact Branta Canadensis Maxima.

Dr. Hanson had in his hands an extinct bird! This sent a huge excitement throughout the community of professional wildlife biologists.

Even though this handful of birds did exist the subspecies was undoubtedly extremely endangered. This reality that a tiny number of individuals were surviving gave hope but there remained the cold hard fact that the subspecies would not survive without immediate help. So, the wildlife biologists went to work to set a plan to reverse the endangered status of this species.

The basic plan was to establish small breeding groups across the upper central states region. Set aside protected areas where their population could expand beyond ‘extremely endangered.’ The effort began in the late 1960s and began to stabilize the remnant population in the 1970s.

Cedar Rapids played a role in the reversal of an extinction. Through the efforts of biologists and dedicated citizens this subspecies of Canada goose is no longer endangered. Branta Canadensis Maxima was pulled back from extinction.

Bravo, Cedar Rapids. Mother Nature thanks you. Bravo.

• Al Weaver, of Cedar Rapids, is past president of C.R. Goose Flock, Inc.

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