There are 9 populations of Canada Geese within the AGJV: North Atlantic, Atlantic, Southern James Bay, Mississippi Valley, Eastern Prairie, Western Prairie, Vancouver, Lesser, Dusky, and 2 populations that contain both Cackling and Canada geese: Tall Grass Prairie and Short Grass Prairie.
For general information on Canada geese, see the attached links:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
National Audubon Society
Range map of Western Prairie Population Canada Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Range map of Atlantic, Mississippi Valley, Dusky and Shortgrass Prairie Populations of Canada Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Range map of North Atlantic, Southern James Bay, Lesser, Tallgrass Prairie and Tavernerâs Canada Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Current Status and Management Issues for North Atlantic Population Canada Geese
Canada geese belonging to the North Atlantic Population (NAP) are primarily composed of the subspecies Branta canadensis canadensis. This population breeds in Labrador, Newfoundland, and eastern Quebec, including Anticosti Island. There appears to be a contribution to the NAP by birds that breed in western Greenland, which are increasing and expanding. The majority of the NAP over-winters in southern Atlantic Canada and New England. A small portion of the NAP winters from New Jersey south to North Carolina.
Determining the population status of NAP Canada geese is confounded on the wintering grounds by mixing in winter of migrant birds from three Canada goose populations (North Atlantic, Atlantic and Southern James Bay Populations) and a nonmigratory population that are resident in most states and provinces of the Atlantic Flyway. The best method of evaluating NAP population status is to count breeding pairs on the nesting grounds. Each May the breeding population is surveyed annually by 2 separate surveys, a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service fixed wing survey, and the helicopter plots of the Canadian Wildlife Service Eastern Waterfowl Survey. An expanded helicopter plot survey was initiated in 2001 when it became evident that neither the original Eastern Waterfowl Survey nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fixed-wing aircraft transect survey transects adequately covered the breeding range of this population. Integration of the two surveys is now in progress. In May 2007 the total estimated number of breeding pairs was 46 900, which is similar to the 10-year average, and about 28% above the average since the survey began in 1990.
One of the critical needs for managing NAP Canada geese is a reliable estimate of the number of NAP geese taken by hunters. Leg banding of NAP geese on their breeding areas has been limited due to the remoteness of their breeding area and demanding logistics needed to band sufficient numbers of birds. Limited banding of NAP geese has been conducted each spring for several years where geese stage on Prince Edward Island. However, this banding effort has not produced a sufficient number of bandings needed for estimating survival and harvest rates. In the summer of 2007, a pilot NAP banding effort was undertaken in Labrador by the Canadian Wildlife Service with the financial support of the Atlantic Flyway Council. However, a number of geese banded as juveniles in several northeastern U.S. states were captured at the sites in Labrador and compromised the interpretation of band returns. As has been documented for other Canada goose populations, the presence of molting, temperate-breeding geese is a concern in terms of how their presence on northern goose breeding areas affects the accuracy of breeding survey estimates and the potential effects on locally breeding geese of the NAP due to competition for resources.
In 2008, managers plan to expand the banding effort in Labrador. If successful, this effort will be continued in the future with an objective of banding sufficient numbers of NAP geese to monitor survival, harvest distribution, and harvest rates.
Current Status and Management Issues for Atlantic Population Canada GeeseThe Atlantic Population (AP) of Canada geese was once considered the largest Canada goose population in North America and the staple of waterfowl hunters in the Atlantic Flyway. This once heavily hunted population peaked at nearly 1 million birds during the 1970s, then suffered a sharp decline during the late 1980s and early 1990s. By 1995, breeding pair counts in northern Quebec had declined by 75 percent since the time that breeding ground surveys were initiated in 1988, forcing waterfowl managers to close the regular Canada goose hunting season throughout the Atlantic Flyway states.
The hunting season closure remained in effect until 1999, when the breeding population estimate reached 77,000 pairs, and a limited hunting season was resumed in several Atlantic flyway states. The population has since undergone a dramatic increase with 196,600 breeding pairs recorded in northern Quebec in June 2007.
The breeding range of AP geese is north of 48˚ latitude in northern QuÃ©bec along Ungava Bay, the northeastern shore of Hudson Bay (where 80% of the breeding birds are found), and in the interior of the Ungava Peninsula. Banding data have revealed that AP geese winter from southern Ontario eastward to Prince Edward Island and southward to North Carolina. Once this population wintered primarily in the southern portions of the Atlantic Flyway, but since the 1960s, wintering concentrations occur mainly on the Delmarva Peninsula and in portions of New York, southeastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
After years of attempting to manage Canada geese from a wintering ground perspective, annual population and production surveys, and banding/marking programs now focus on the breeding grounds and are key to the management of AP geese.
In March 2008, the Atlantic Flyway Council approved a Management Plan for Atlantic Population Canada Geese that established a population objective to achieve and maintain an index of 225,000 breeding pairs of AP Canada geese in the Ungava region of northern QuÃ©bec. Funding to implement the population monitoring and research needs identified in the management plan approach one-half million dollars annually and require a long-term commitment among state, federal, provincial, aboriginal, and private partners. Atlantic Population Canada geese are again an important component of the Atlantic Flyway waterfowl harvest.
Current Status and Management Issues for Southern James Bay Population Canada GeeseThe Southern James Bay Canada goose population appears to be relatively stable following good reproduction on the western James Bay mainland and on Akimiski Island in the mid-2000s. The population has had an above average nesting effort and average nesting success resulting in a stabilization or slight population increase from the 1990s. Population reproduction appears to react positively to earlier and warmer springs.
Management issues for the Southern James Bay population concern harvest management and breeding habitat degradation. This population stages and winters in areas where increasingly abundant temperate-breeding Canada geese (giants) reside and both populations are often harvested together. There is a desire to attempt to control growing and often problematic temperate-breeding Canada geese through more liberal harvest regulations but to not over harvest the Southern James Bay population at the same time. To ensure this outcome, we are actively monitoring spring breeding populations and harvest rates of both populations.
The second management issue concerns breeding habitat changes on the sub-Arctic nesting grounds. There are several potential causes including increasing goose numbers causing damage to vegetation on the fragile salt marshes, rising land mass, sea level change, climate change, etc. Increasing populations of both Canada and lesser snow geese have caused noticeable degradation of habitat conditions on the Akimiski Island portion of the breeding ground for the Southern James Bay population. The nesting ecology of this population continues to be monitored to determine effects of these changes on reproduction.
Current Status and Management Issues for Mississippi Valley Population Canada GeeseThe Mississippi Valley Canada goose spring breeding population has been very stable during the 1990s and 2000s. Like other northern goose populations, productivity is negatively affected by poor spring breeding conditions. The geographic extent of this population is relatively large such that weather events may not effect the entire population leading to its relative stability.
Harvest management is the most important management issue facing this population. Like the Southern James Bay population, control of the temperate-breeding Canada goose population through liberalized harvest without harming the Mississippi Valley population is the challenge facing managers. Spring breeding abundance and harvest rates of both populations continues to be monitored to ensure that harvest rates remain within desirable limits.
Also, coastal habitats used by this population are vulnerable to damage through heavy use by lesser snow geese and temperate-breeding moult migrants. Mississippi Valley Population breeding ecology and the quality of these habitats continues to be monitored.
Current Status and Management Issues for Eastern Prairie Population Canada GeeseThe Eastern Prairie Canada goose spring breeding population has been relatively stable during the 1990s and 2000s. Like other northern goose populations, productivity is negatively affected by poor spring breeding conditions. The geographic extent of this population is relatively large such that weather events may not effect the entire population leading to its relative stability.
Harvest management is the most important management issue facing this population. Like the Southern James Bay and Mississippi Valley populations, control of the temperate-breeding Canada goose population through liberalized harvest without harming other populations is the challenge facing managers. We will continue to monitor spring breeding abundance and harvest rates of interior populations to ensure that harvest rates remain within desirable limits.
Also, coastal habitats used by this population are vulnerable to damage through heavy use by lesser snow geese and temperate-breeding moult migrants. Breeding ecology and the quality of these habitats continues to be monitored.
Current Status and Management Issues for Western Prairie Population Canada GeeseWestern Prairie Canada geese (WPCG) are a population of large-bodied Canada geese found in the eastern tier Central Flyway states, western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan. This group of geese is comprised of Interior Canada geese, but also includes some Giant Canada geese. These geese breed in south-central Canada and winter primarily in the eastern states of the Central Flyway. WPCG overlap considerably with Great Plains Canada geese (GPCG) that have been restored to and breed in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and northeastern Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
WPCG and GPCG are currently managed under a combined population management plan, âManagement Plan for Large Canada Geese Wintering in the Western Tier States of the Central Flyway (1988)â. WP Canada geese are mixed with GP Canada geese as well as small Tall Grass Prairie Canada geese (TGP). Separation of "large" (WP and GP) and "small" (TGP and SGP) Canada geese during fall and winter surveys is difficult. Fall and winter survey results therefore cannot be used to reliably track the status of the WP or GP Canada geese separately. Currently, counts obtained during the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey are used to provide the winter status and distribution of geese.
The WPCG breeding population objective has been set at 17,000 pairs, with January mid-winter survey regulatory thresholds of 150,000 to 285,000 (WPCG and GPCG combined). The latest three year running average (2006-2008) population estimate of the WPCG/GPCG from the MWS is 519,964 or 82% greater than the current upper regulatory.
Breeding grounds data from individual subflocks are also inadequate. Current estimates of harvest distribution and derivation are not available; there has been no significant banding of WPCG geese on the breeding grounds in over two decades. Although management of the WPCG and GPCG from a wintering ground perspective dictates that the two must be treated as one group, there may be a need to continue to manage the WPCG â nesting exclusively in Canada â as a separate entity. An improved understanding of the WPCG breeding range and its winter distribution is necessary to provide a better basis for management of this population.
Banding data (1980-85) indicated that the WPCG was composed of two components: a) a northern âgroupâ, nesting primarily in the boreal forest region of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, extending east to the range of the Eastern Prairie Population, and composed of B. c. interior geese, and b) a more southerly, parkland breeding population of B. c. maxima extending south to the range of the GPCG. Preliminary band analyses indicated that within these two regions existed distinct sub flocks with discrete wintering areas within the Central Flyway. Banding of WPCG has been very limited in recent years, primarily because of other higher priority banding and available data are inadequate to enable reasonable identification of manageable subpopulations.
There is a need to continue to manage large Canada geese wintering in the eastern tier states of the Central Flyway based on both breeding and wintering ground affiliations. There has been little work done on the breeding ecology of WPCG geese or their breeding habitats. Additionally, fall and winter behavior and ecology are not well documented and there is a need to better assess the distribution and abundance of WPCG geese within wintering areas. With construction of mainstem reservoirs on the Missouri River beginning in the early 1950âs, late fall and winter distribution of these birds has shifted from mid-latitude states to South Dakota and more recently North Dakota. Additionally, fall migration has progressively delayed as climates warm and high energy waste grains become more abundant in Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
Populations of WP Canada geese have increased significantly over the past two decades. In some parts of the range, primarily in the parklands of southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba, Canada geese now occupy sub-optimal nesting habitat, due to the increased population density. This has impacted both brood and adult survival. Also, the increased population has created a number of conflicts in both urban and rural settings, with respect to negative impacts on recreational areas and increased depredation of cereal and forage crops.
Breeding habitat within the boreal forest range of WPCG is more secure and prone to fewer conflicts. Expanded mineral exploration, forest industry activities and potential hydro-electric projects on the Churchill River system may influence the distribution, abundance and productivity of WPCG geese in this region in the future. Managers need to continue to monitor industrial and forestry development within the boreal forest, and ensure that WPP geese are recognized within environmental assessment studies conducted during the approval process for such activities. They also need to continue to work with municipal governments and agricultural organizations in mitigating against damage caused by WPCG geese in both rural and urban settings
A growing issue with WPCG relates to moult migrations and their impact on Arctic nesting geese other wildlife and their habitats. Each year a significant portion of the sub-adult birds (not old enough to breed) and birds that have failed in their nesting attempts will migrate north to moult. During this annual moult they lose their flight feathers and are flightless for at least 40 days. Biologists working in the far north are reporting that increasing numbers of large-bodied Canada geese, including WPCG are now moult-migrating to Arctic and sub-Arctic goose breeding areas. These birds compete for limited food resources with breeding snow, white-front and small Canada geese in their northern breeding areas.
WPCG depend upon a wide array of key habitat types in the United States and Canada 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.
WPCG geese are a valuable resource and are highly prized as game birds and for viewing. Recreational use and enjoyment are important values and strong motivation for managing these birds 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 Vancouver Canada GeeseThis goose population largely has been defined by very limited banding and several morphological studies of Canada geese. There is considerable overlap in morphological measures with Dusky Canada geese, stimulating historical debate on whether they constitute separate subspecies. Recent genetic analyses of Canada geese along the north Pacific coast also indicate overlapping variation in the two populations.
The population is centred in coastal areas of Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia and birds are primarily found along forested coastlines. Banding and telemetry studies have confirmed that Vancouver Canada geese in Southeast Alaska are largely non-migratory. The southern extent of their distribution is poorly defined and genetic distinctions may have been obscured by introductions of Canada geese from other populations in southern British Columbia. The northern extent of their distribution is also poorly defined, although moulting groups of Vancouver Canada geese have been observed along the northern coast of the Gulf of Alaska to the vicinity of Bering Glacier.
Current Status and Management Issues for Lesser Canada Geese
This goose population has been partially defined through surveys, banding, and genetics studies; but further work is underway to accurately define its breeding grounds in Alaska. The exact boundaries of the breeding range remain undetermined due to the close proximity, and possible overlap, of the breeding range of the similar-appearing Tavernerâs Canada goose. Efforts are under way to determine the geographic boundaries between breeding areas of these two species.
Lesser Canada geese nest in association with streams and rivers in interior Alaska. Flocks of goslings with attendant adults are typically seen on gravel and sand bars along rivers during the summer. To the north and east, these birds may also nest in tundra habitats.
Lesser Canada geese winter with six other populations of white-cheeked geese that are similar in appearance. Population levels of some of these geese are such that severe restrictions are placed upon hunting opportunities, and hunter check stations are used in western Oregon and southwestern Washington to closely monitor harvest of goose populations. Current information indicates this population may be slightly declining.
Breeding grounds habitat, primarily interior forested wetlands, is relatively secure with the possible exceptions of south central Alaska, where urban sprawl is occurring, and wetlands in the vicinity of Fairbanks, where urbanization is occurring and petroleum development is proposed. On the wintering grounds, conversion of grasslands and croplands to uses that are not favorable to geese is increasing. Urban expansion, conversion to fruit/vegetable and vineyard crops, and pulpwood plantations have reduced habitat and increased goose foraging intensity on grain, turf, and pasture crops.
Current Status and Management Issues for Dusky Canada GeeseThis larger white-cheeked goose has a relatively restrictive breeding and wintering range. The main segment of this population breeds on the Copper River Delta of Alaska and winters in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. This population of geese has been well defined and delineated historically through surveys and banding.
Since the 1980s, the primary concern with the population has been high rates of nest and egg predation on the breeding grounds, resulting in low production. The main factor causing this was the 1964 Alaska earthquake and uplift of the Copper River Delta that triggered extensive habitat alterations, including release of shrub and tree communities, alteration of coastal features and marshes, and desalination of wetlands. More large predators such as brown bears, wolves and coyotes invaded the delta area. In recent years, bald eagles have become a primary predator of adult geese on nests.
On the wintering grounds, conversion of grasslands and croplands to uses that are not favorable to geese is increasing. Urban expansion, conversion to fruit/vegetable and vineyard crops, and pulpwood plantations have reduced habitat and increased goose foraging intensity on grain, turf, and pasture crops.
Management of Canada goose hunting within the range of Dusky geese has been very restrictive since the mid-1980s. A complex regulatory program in Washington and Oregon is designed to provide harvest opportunity on stable and abundant Canada and Cackling goose subspecies, to reduce impacts of crop damage, and minimize harvest of Dusky geese. Harvest assessment in the special permit quota zone is vital to track levels of Dusky goose harvest, which may trigger closures of all Canada goose seasons.
Current Status and Management Issues for Tall Grass Prairie Population Canada/Cacking GeeseThe Tall Grass Prairie population (TGP) of geese is comprised of small bodied âCanada-typeâ or white-cheeked geese that were considered to be a complex of two subspecies of Canada geese, lesser Canada goose and Richardsonâs Canada goose.
TGP geese breed in the Canadian Arctic generally east of 105Âº West Longitude and north of 60Âº North Latitude including on Southampton and Baffin Islands. Historically they wintered on the coastal prairie of Texas northward through Oklahoma; however, their winter range in recent years has extended from the lower Rio Grande Valley in Mexico northward into South Dakota and eastward into southwestern Louisiana. Their primary migration routes are through Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan and the east-tier States of the Central Flyway. Important harvest areas are southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and the "Low Plains" portions of Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska.
The breeding range of TGP Canada/Cackling geese, was designated primarily on the basis of historical banding on wintering grounds and staging areas. More recent neck-banding on the breeding ground has generally confirmed the population delineation. The winter and migrational ranges of TGP and Short Grass Prairie (SGP) geese overlap and there is a need to better define TGP migration and wintering areas from a breeding ground perspective.
Current procedures for assessing the status of TGP geese involves surveys that generate a large:small white-cheeked goose ratio. Estimates of the smaller white-cheeked goose numbers are estimated from counts of small white-cheeked geese in counties of each state designated as either TGP or SGP traditional use areas. Accurate large:small white-cheeked goose ratios are difficult to estimate because of insufficient sampling, and apparent shifts in composition within the winter range of both TGP and SGP birds. Additionally, surveys are conducted on Baffin Island in late summer to estimate population trends in the far eastern portion of the breeding grounds. Surveys across the TGP and SGP breeding grounds are being designed and implemented. Environmental factors (snow cover, temperature, etc.) appear to be the primary influence on the annual production of TGP geese.
The population objective for TGP geese is a three running average of 250,000 birds based on the Mid-winter Waterfowl Inventory. The TGP population has exceeded this objective annually since 1997, with 3-year average estimates in recent years exceeding 500,000 birds.
Harvest of TGP is estimated through harvest survey programs of both Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Goose harvest estimates derived from mail questionnaires are proportioned in harvest by species based on samples of tail fans submitted by cooperating hunters. Estimates of TGP harvest are then obtained by measurements from these tail feathers and information submitted on the location of the harvest (TGP vs. SGP range).
TGP geese depend upon a wide array of key habitat types in three nations during their annual cycle. Degradation of important habitats is a continuing problem and protection of wintering and staging areas need attention (e.g., Louisiana and Texas coastal marshes, Rainwater Basins, Platte River). These habitats should be monitored, protected, restored, or enhanced as needed because human induced and natural changes to these habitats will continue.
TGP geese are a valuable resource and are highly prized as game birds and for viewing. Recreational use and enjoyment are important values and strong motivation for managing these birds 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 Short Grass Prairie Canada/Cackling GeeseThese small Canada geese nest on Victoria and Jenny Lind Islands and on the mainland from Queen Maud Gulf west and south to the Mackenzie River and northern Alberta and winter in southeastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Numbers of SGPP have remained relatively stable over the last 5 years averaging around 200,000 birds. Work on the breeding ecology of SGPP has been very limited and needs to be expanded. The potential impact of mineral extraction activities in Arctic and sub_Arctic areas and climate change on these birds is not well understood. Similarly, little work has been done on the ecology of these birds in the fall, winter and spring. Ecological issues that affect SGPP during the non-breeding period are the same that affect other Arctic and sub-Arctic breeding geese.