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Property History of Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area

To most people, the name Horicon Marsh is synonymous with Canada geese. Although the marsh is renowned for and abundant with these birds, it was neither originally established for geese nor was the population always this plentiful.

During the 1800s, ducks were very abundant on the marsh, but the Canada goose was rather uncommon. At Horicon Marsh, the state and federal management units were established as waterfowl nesting and migratory resting areas, during the 1920s and 1940s, respectively. The state end of the marsh was restored at the urging of duck hunters, while the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge was created as a nesting area for the redhead duck. Today, Horicon is still among the largest nesting area for this bird in the eastern United States. Every year, about 2,000 to 3,000 redheads use Horicon. Mallard and blue-winged teal are the most abundant nesting waterfowl, and during the spring and fall migration, nearly all of the ducks common to Wisconsin can be sighted here.

Horicon was not managed for Canada geese until the late 1940s and early 1950s. With the growth in the total population of geese and the attractiveness of the Horicon area, these birds have been coming here in the numbers we now see for only the past 25 years or so. It was the restoration of the marsh in combination with the intensive agriculture in the surrounding area that lured the geese to east-central Wisconsin.

The reason for emphasizing waterfowl in the establishment and management of the marsh is that these birds are carefully regulated by state and federal laws because of the hunting season. In addition, most of our state and federal wildlife properties were purchased and developed with funds contributed by hunters. This money is collected through hunting license fees, state and federal duck stamps and excise taxes on firearms and ammunition.

Learn more about Horicon human history.