The Atlantic population of Canada geese will return to the Atlantic Flyway
in record numbers this fall, continuing a remarkable resurgence in eastern
North America after years of steep population declines in the late 1980s
and early 1990s.
Recent aerial surveys conducted by biologists from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the Atlantic Flyway
Council on the birds^ breeding grounds in northern Quebec around the Hudson
and Ungava Bay regions documented a record high 146,000 nesting pairs, a
dramatic 57 percent increase in the Atlantic population from the previous
year. Only a few years ago, this same survey recorded 29,000 nesting
"The resurgence of the Atlantic population of Canada geese is a true
success story, and a testament to what can be achieved when partners work
across state, national and watershed boundaries for the benefit of
migratory birds. It^s exciting to see these birds returning again in such
numbers to the eastern shore of Maryland and other traditional wintering
areas across the Atlantic Coast," said acting Service Director Marshall
Once numerous and a staple of waterfowl hunting enthusiasts in the Atlantic
Flyway, particularly on Maryland^s fabled eastern shore, the Atlantic
population declined dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Record
low numbers of this migrant population observed in the spring of 1995
prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close the 1995-96 hunting
season for Canada geese in the Atlantic Flyway, and Canada quickly followed
suit. Limited hunting was not resumed until the 1999-2000 season.
Biologists attributed the decline in the Atlantic population to a
succession of poor breeding seasons due to late spring conditions. At the
same time, increasing numbers of resident Canada geese masked the decline
of the migratory Atlantic population, contributing to a delay by wildlife
managers in recognizing the problem and responding with reduced harvest
levels. Biologists now rely on recently developed breeding ground surveys
in Canada to provide a valid picture of the population status of the
Atlantic population of Canada geese.
Jones noted that the Atlantic population shouldn^t be confused with
nonmigratory, or "resident," populations of Canada geese, which have
experienced exponential population growth in recent years and are rapidly
becoming a problem in many communities in the East. Those resident
populations share genetic characteristics with natural migratory
populations, but live separately year round on golf courses, parks and
other urban and suburban open spaces across the nation.
Once the decline of the Atlantic population was recognized, the issue
spawned a concerted effort by State wildlife agencies through the Atlantic
Flyway Council, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to rebuild this population as quickly as possible. As a
result, these agencies cooperatively stepped-up their commitments to
improve population monitoring and banding, and support research studies on
the breeding ground.
These efforts began to pay dividends when, combined with favorable spring
weather conditions and the absence of hunting pressure, mortality rates
began to decline, increasing the numbers of breeding pairs and the hatch
rate of goslings. Over the six year period since 1995, the spring
population has increased at an average annual rate of 23 percent.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review population survey results
and consult with the Atlantic Flyway Council before proposing frameworks
for the 2001-02 hunting season. If the Service approves hunting frameworks
for the Atlantic population of Canada geese, states in the Atlantic flyway
will have the option of selecting a hunting season for Canada geese that
falls within those frameworks.