GREATER SNOW GEESE ACTION PLAN

In recent years, wildlife managers have been faced with a new problem: overabundant species. These species are not subject to nature’s regulation; that is, their populations are
not controlled by the carrying capacity of their environment, by competition or predators,or by the impact of human activities such as hunting or habitat encroachment. Their overabundance causes their habitat to degrade, which in turn has a negative impact on other species, sometimes even decreasing the biodiversity of a region. These overabundant species are often closely associated with human activities because they have been able to adapt their eating habits, causing both positive and negative economic impacts. Their abundance results in con icts between the different stakeholders affected by the species. And they pose new challenges to wildlife managers, who are more used to managing species with declining populations and for which minimum thresholds need to be set than to managing species whose population size requires setting a maximum or socially acceptable target level.

The explosion of the Snow Goose population—which includes two subspecies, the Lesser Snow Goose in central and western North America and the Greater Snow Goose in the east—is a good example of an overabundant species in North America. Events such as the creation of sanctuaries, decreased hunting pressure, climate change and new agricultural practices have led to the overabundance of the species (Ankney 1996; Batt 1997, 1998; Gauthier et al. 2005). Between 1983 and 1997 the Greater Snow Goose population increased by 9% annually (Reed et al. 1998), and managers at that time feared that breeding, migration and wintering grounds were being severely damaged (Giroux et al. 1998). As a result, after the population expanded rapidly from 25 000 to nearly 1 million geese in less than three decades, a series of special conservation measures were implemented in Canada, starting in the fall of 1998, to limit population growth and stabilize its size at a maximum of 1 million geese, based on the spring estimate.

Because the Greater Snow Goose crosses more than one border during its migration, management of the species involves a number of partners, which requires signi cant collaboration and cooperation efforts. Since the implementation of special conservation measures in Canada in 1998 and in the United States in 2009, the population has remained relatively stable at between 700 000 and 1 000 000 birds (Reed and Calvert 2007; see Appendix I). Despite these efforts, the balance remains precarious, and we are still a long way from the objective set in the 2005–2010 Action Plan, which was a population of between 500 000 and 750 000 birds (Bélanger and Lefebvre 2006). This population size would allow us to maintain a healthy population and reduce the risks of affecting the ecological integrity of habitats and of biodiversity. It would also allow the population to recover from natural or human-made disasters, while minimizing losses related to agricultural damage and optimizing socio-economic bene ts. The Snow Goose is a species that adapts quickly to its environment and knows how to take advantage of it. The factors that led to the species’ overabundance have not disappeared, so there remains the possibility of a population boom.

 

This report should be cited as follows:

Anonymous. 2013. Snow Geese in Québec: 2013-2018 Action Plan. A product of a January 2012 workshop with members of the Greater Snow Goose Management Round Table, Québec City, Québec. 20 pages.

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