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Snow Geese Draw Crowd at Squaw Creek

Visitors from across the country come to see the yearly bird migration.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Melting snow, spring bulbs and warmer temperatures are all a sure sign spring is finally on the way.

That means the staff members at Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge get their yearly visit from some travelers passing through the area. It's a migration they are happy to see.

For nature lovers, this is a special time of the year. The snow geese have returned to Squaw Creek.

"It's an impressive sight seeing 1.2 million or a few more birds take off at one time," said Corey Kudrna, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Squaw Creek.

"It's a beautiful day and I always like to get out and look at wildlife," said visitor Dallas Van Hoose, who had traveled to Squaw Creek from Leavenworth Monday afternoon.

More than one million snow geese are making a pit stop in northwest Missouri. The count on Monday was nearly 1.1 million birds. It is just the first leg of a very long trip for the geese that started near the Gulf of Mexico.

"Ths snow gees have been migrating north," Kudrna said. "They're going to head to near the Arctic Circle and they're going to breed up there on the tundra."

Squaw Creek and the area nearby are serving as a bed and breakfast for the geese for a couple weeks.

"They're going to maybe be eating a little bit of vegetation," Kudrna said. "But, this is really a loafing area. This is where they rest during the mid-day and overnight. They're going out to the farm fields and eating spilled grain mostly and that's where the hunters are out."

Not as hospitable to the geese are the hunters who follow them on their trek north.

"We have our areas we know the geese frequent," said Damian Lauritzen, who hunts the geese yearly. "We start in Arkansas and take them all the way to Canada."

"This has always been a great area," he said. "This is kind of where it started. The geese kind of have to bottleneck. As they fan out, this is where they pinch in. This is a good area to get out and get a good number of geese."

There are also different kinds of shooters who follow the birds.

"I like to take a lot of photographs of them too," Van Hoose said.

"We'll get people like a daughter or a son or a wife that wants to come along and doesn't want to shoot but wants to lay out in the field and see them up as close as you can," Lauritzen said.

Whether it is shooting with a rifle or shooting with a camera, the visitors who come to bird watch come from all over. Kudrna says he's talked to people from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New York and even California.

The geese are a national draw that brings millions of dollars in revenue for the regional economy.

If you want to see the geese, there's not much time left. Kudrna says their stay at Squaw Creek should last about another week before they continue their trip north for the summer.
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