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Greater White-fronted Goose Print

There are 3 populations of greater White-fronted geese within the AGJV: Midcontinent, Tule, and Pacific.

Greater White-fronted Goose  

For general information on greater White-fronted geese, see the following links:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

National Audubon Society


Range map of Pacific and Midcontinent White-fronted geese
(from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Current Status and Management Issues for Midcontinent White-Fronted Goose

Midcontinent  Greater White-fronted geese (MCWFG) migrate through many jurisdictions in three nations, and are of great interest to many individuals and organizations.  As a shared resource, the Central, Mississippi, and Pacific Flyway Councils work cooperatively to manage this species through a formal management plan that is updated every five years.  The most recent update was in 2005 and provides management guidelines to maintain the MCWFG population at a level that will optimize harvest opportunities and other public benefits consistent with the welfare of the population, international treaties and habitat constraints.
Greater White-fonted Goose
MCWFG populations must be monitored to assess status.  Since this population is dispersed and intermingled with other geese during the fall, winter and spring, a migration survey is conducted in September in southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta.  At this time of year the geese are relatively concentrated and provide an opportunity to provide reasonable estimates of the population.  A population objective of 600,000 MCWFG has been established.  Population status is based on a three year running average of indices from the fall survey.   Use of three year running averages rather than single year indices to measure status in relation to the objective is considered appropriate to reduce the effects of annual variation in indices and survey conditions.

Greater White-fonted Goose Banding is also an important component of MCWFG management.  Band recovery data provide consistent information to assess survival and harvest rates, temporal and geographic distribution of the harvest, and population size.  Banding data provide a means to assess the overall success of population management.  

Productivity data provide valuable insights into population dynamics and aid in interpreting results from population and harvest surveys.  Field productivity appraisals (percent immature and number of young per family) should be conducted on an annual basis for MCWFG. These direct assessments provide the best index to annual productivity, and unlike parts collection surveys, are free from biases caused by differential vulnerability of adult and immature birds to hunting.  

MCWFG depend upon a wide array of key habitat types in three nations during their annual cycle.  These habitats should be monitored, protected, restored, or enhanced as needed because human induced and natural changes to these habitats will continue.

MCWFG are a valuable renewable natural resource and are highly prized as game birds and for viewing.   Recreational use and enjoyment are important values and strong motivation for managing MCWFG at optimum levels.  Maintaining the population at or above the objective level will permit this traditional use as well as provide other non consumptive recreational uses.

Current Status and Management Issues for Tule Greater White-fronted Geese

Tule Greater White-fronted geese are one of two subspecies of White-fronted geese that breed in Alaska and winter primarily in California. Tule White-fronted geese breed in the Cook Inlet and  associated drainages in Alaska though the breeding range has not been fully defined and additional nesting areas likely exist.  Satellite radio marking birds has been used in recent years to help identify breeding, migration and wintering areas.  The primary wintering area for the Tule population is the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in California.  Migration stopover areas include the Columbia Basin of Oregon and Washington and the Summer Lake Basin of Oregon. 

Tule White-fronted geese are one of the least abundant of any goose subspecies, and obtaining accurate estimates of population size has proven quite challenging.  The breeding grounds for the Tule goose population were only partially delineated in the late 1990s, and aerial surveys have not been feasible because detection was very poor in boreal forest and muskeg habitats.  On the wintering grounds, the scarce Tule goose intermingles with over a half-million Pacific white-fronted geese.   Since 2003, surveys of radio-marked tule geese and ground surveys of marked and unmarked birds have been used to develop population estimates.  This approach shows promise in assessing the status of the population. 

Current Status and Managment Issues for Pacific Greater White-fronted Geese

Pacific White-fronted geese are one of two subspecies of White-fronted geese that breed in Alaska and winter primarily in California. The other subspecies is the Tule greater White-fronted goose.  Nearly all Pacific White-fronted geese breed from the Alaska Peninsula north to the Yukon River, with the majority nesting on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of western Alaska.  The primary wintering areas for Pacific White-fronted geese are the Sacramento Valley and the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta of California.  These areas receive the majority of fall migrants, beginning in late September with peak numbers occurring by early to mid-November.  A small percentage of the population, mostly from Bristol Bay in Alaska, migrates early through the Klamath Basin (Oregon/California) in September, over-flies the Sacramento Valley, and winters in the northern highlands of Mexico.  

The population of Pacific white-fronted geese has increased rapidly in recent years and is now estimated to be over 600,000 birds.   This population size significantly exceeds flyway management plans.   This population is used for both sport harvest, primarily in Oregon and California, and subsistence harvest by residents of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.  

Habitat conversion, drought or other water shortages, and changes in agricultural practices may adversely affect the quantity and distribution of foraging or roosting habitat, especially in the Sacramento Valley during winter and in the Klamath Basin during spring.  The continued decline in use of the Klamath Basin as a key fall staging area by white-fronted geese and many other waterfowl species is a major cause for concern.  In recent years, earlier migrations of the increasing Pacific population northward, from the Sacramento Valley to the Klamath Basin, are creating increased crop depredation complaints.  The earlier migration may be related to changes in forage abundance in the Central Valley of California.


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