There are four populations of Brant geese within the AGJV: Eastern High Arctic, Atlantic, Western High Arctic, and Pacific.
For general information on Brant geese, see the following links:
Range map of Pacific, Western High Arctic, Eastern High Arctic and Atlantic Brant
(Courtesy of Dr. Austin Reed)
Current Status and Management Issues for Eastern High Arctic Brant
Eastern High Arctic Brant (EHA Brant) breed on islands of Canadaâs eastern high Arctic, migrating via Greenland and Iceland to winter in Ireland. The number of EHA Brant is estimated through counts on the staging areas in Iceland and the wintering grounds in Ireland, where the population grew from fewer than 10,000 birds in the late 1960s to more than 33,000 in 2004â2005. The 2006 International Census, coordinated by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the United Kingdom, estimated about 29,000 birds in the population . There are no surveys currently conducted on the Canadian breeding grounds, and little information is available about the distribution within breeding range.
The percentage of young is assessed during the fall census. As is the case for most Arctic birds, productivity fluctuates markedly between years, from 1-2% in poor years and up to 30% in good years. In 2006, production of young was very low, with < 2% young in the fall population
The protection of staging areas and wintering ground habitat, and limiting the disturbance and other impacts to brant populations there, are probably the most important actions that can be taken to protect EHA Brant. In Canada it is important to maintain the current situation of very low harvest and near-zero human impact on the breeding grounds. Canada should work with the co-management boards and people who determine northern land use processes to ensure that the limited amount of lowland habitat in the Canadian High Arctic is identified and protected, either directly as parks or National Wildlife Areas or indirectly through environmental assessment and review of land use activities.
Current Status and Management Issues for Atlantic Brant Atlantic Brant typically weigh 3 lbs. or less, much smaller than their close cousins the Canada goose. The distinctive white cheek patch found on the Canada goose is replaced on the Brant by small white bars forming a ring around the neck.
Atlantic Brant nest in loose colonies on islands of the eastern Arctic. Major breeding colonies are located in the Foxe Basin west of Baffin Island. The breeding season for Atlantic Brant is very short. On the breeding grounds snow melts in mid-June, and winter returns in early September. In an average year this leaves just enough time to lay a clutch of eggs, incubate them and raise goslings to flight stage. In years when snow melt is late, female Brant reabsorb eggs to retain nutrients that would otherwise be lost in an unsuccessful breeding attempt. Atlantic Brant occasionally experience production failures related to weather on their high-Arctic breeding grounds.
Atlantic Brant winter along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina (mainly from New Jersey to North Carolina). They utilize coastal marsh habitats along estuaries, and shallow bays. Brant are strongly dependent upon certain aquatic foods like eelgrass and sea lettuce (algae) and thus Brant are vulnerable to starvation whenever coastal waters freeze, thus severely limiting access to critical aquatic foods. In such instances Brant are forced to feed in agricultural fields, residential lawns, athletic fields, and golf courses. High winter mortality has been documented in years of unusually severe weather. Atlantic Brant population trends are tracked by annual aerial surveys (i.e., Midwinter Waterfowl Survey), which is conducted in early January when Brant have reached their wintering grounds and are relatively sedentary. The population has fluctuated dramatically, but numbers have increased over much of its range. The January 2008 estimate of Atlantic Brant was 161,600, which is 7% higher than last year's estimate, and 6% higher than the 10-year average.
Until recently little was known about Atlantic Brant population ecology, vital rates, habitat use and requirements, or current migratory pathways. In 2001, researchers in the U.S. and Canadian Atlantic Flyway initiated a radio telemetry study to determine Brant seasonal movement patterns, migration chronology, critical staging areas, and locations of important breeding colonies. Additional research was begun in 2006 to determine Brant winter ecology. To learn more about Brant research see the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife website. A good understanding of Brant biology and ecology is critical to the proper management of the species.
Current Status and Management Issues for Pacific Brant and Western High Arctic Brant Loss of winter habitat is one of the critical threats to Brant populations as Brant are more dependent on natural wintering habitat than most other goose species. Much of the coastal habitat Brant use during winter is subject to human activities which result in loss of habitat through industrial and residential development or disturbance by recreational activities. Potential oil and gas development on the breeding areas and long-term effects of climate change also pose a threat. Because breeding and wintering populations are localized, disasters such as eelgrass dieoff (a major food source), frozen feeding areas, pollution and oil spills in even one of the major staging or wintering areas could have a tremendous impact on the entire population.
Although some of the large-scale threats to Brant populations (e.g. weather, predation) are beyond human control, there are several things that can be done to ensure that natural fluctuations in the population do not lead to major declines. Management issues include identifying the links between breeding, staging, and wintering areas and describing habitat use patterns on the wintering grounds and at fall and spring staging sites in order to conserve critical habitat. Oil and gas development in the Arctic must be sensitive to this species and keep impacts to a minimum. Monitoring is also very important so that appropriate hunting restrictions or bans can be applied and adjusted, depending on breeding success and population size.
Western High Arctic Brant are of management concern given their limited number and restricted winter distribution. Although winter numbers of this population appear to be currently stable at about 9,000 birds, they remain below the continental management goal of 12,000 wintering birds. The population of Pacific Brant has been the most variable in the last 50 years due to a substantial decline in the late 70's caused by harsh winters and over-harvesting. The population rebounded in the early 90âs with increased hunting regulations and management. Although winter numbers of Pacific Brant appear to be currently stable at about 126,000 birds, they remain below the continental management goal of 150,000 wintering birds.