Overabundant Light Goose Issues

Habitat Degradation Caused by High Populations of Snow and Ross’s Geese

Some populations of Lesser Snow geese, Greater Snow goose, and Ross’s geese have increased rapidly over the past few decades and remain at high levels. The adverse impacts of these high populations were first identified in the 1990s and they continue to be a concern for habitat and migratory bird managers. Evidence of the severity, extent and the ecological pathways of this problem in the central and eastern Arctic and sub-Arctic has continued to mount, and the western Arctic is now experiencing similar problems.

Hunting strategies initiated in the late 1990s to help control population growth have successfully engaged more hunters and increased the harvest of Snow and Ross’s geese. Survival rates of geese from some Lesser Snow goose colonies have declined and colonies of Lesser Snow geese in the southern Hudson Bay region have stabilized or declined over the past 10 years. The Greater Snow goose population size has also stabilized. Other colonies of Lesser Snow geese, and the Ross’s goose population, in general, continue to increase.

During the last five years, additional evidence on the extent and severity of the habitat degradation problem has been obtained (in Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, and Queen Maud Gulf in Nunavut). Conversely, no evidence of recovery on the sub-arctic and Arctic breeding grounds has emerged. Obtaining a more comprehensive knowledge of the geographic distribution of the impacts throughout the northern migration and breeding areas is considered a high priority for the AGJV. This includes the geographic area that contains the majority of breeding birds in the eastern Arctic (Baffin Island, Southampton Island), central and western Arctic (recent evidence suggests that the Banks Island colony in the western Canadian Arctic has grown steadily and may soon also cause habitat problems). Concern about the impacts of the observed habitat damage on other species and other ecosystem components also remains high, and the impact of these large populations on habitats and other species in southern migration and wintering areas is another concern.

The AGJV strategies are to:

  1. evaluate the geographic extent of habitat degradation, especially the more northern staging areas and colonies,
  2. evaluate the nature and intensity of habitat changes,
  3. monitor the nature and rate of recovery of previously damaged areas, and
  4. assess the nature of impact on other populations of geese, other migratory birds and other ecosystem components
Additionally, the AGJV will continue work to foster cooperation in implementing those management actions that are recommended by the ongoing assessments of Lesser Snow geese, Greater Snow geese and Ross’s geese to address this problem in a timely and constructive fashion.


Arctic Ecosystems in Peril: Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group, AGJV, 1997 (PDF) (6.75 Mb)
Greater Snow Goose Report, of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group, AGJV, 1998
(PDF) (1.56 Mb)
The Status of Ross’s Geese, Report of the Arctic Goose Joint Venture Ross’s Goose Subcommittee, AGJV, 2001 (PDF) (1.71 Mb)
Direct Control and Alternative Harvest Strategies for North American Light Geese, Report of the Direct Control and Alternative Harvest Measures Working Group, AGJV, 2003 (PDF) (1.37 Mb)
Evaluation of the Special Conservation Measures for Greater Snow Geese (PDF) (2.95 Mb)