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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 pairs. "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 Jones. 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.

Uploaded: 7/26/2001