The Rocky Mountain population of the western Canada goose: its distribution, habitats, and management

Special Scientific Report -- Wildlife 229



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The western Canada goose (Branta canadensis moffitti) was divided into a Rocky Mountain population (RMP) and a Pacific population (PP) on the basis of band recovery patterns examined in this study and recovery data from other investigators. Habitat information obtained from nine cooperating wildlife agencies within the RMP's range provided a base line for evaluating future changes in nesting, molting, and wintering areas. The habitat inventory indicated that none of the seasonal habitats were currently limiting the size of the RMP. The RMP's range is divided into 15 reference areas and these are briefly described. Past studies of Canada geese in the Intermountain Region are reviewed. Topics covered in the discussion of breeding biology are nesting chronology, spring population composition, breeding age, clutch size, nesting success. artificial nesting structures, and gosling survival. Much of the mortality of Canada geese occurs before the birds are fledged. Man-made nesting structures reduce losses during incubation. but research is needed on the relations between brooding sites and gosling survival. Some western Canada geese, mainly prebreeders and unsuccessful nesters, make molt migrations to and from molting areas during and after the brood-rearing season. More than half of these molt-migrants are yearlings too young to nest; there are indications that even some successful nesters leave nesting areas to molt before the fledging of their offspring. Geese 2 years old or older may serve as guides to traditional molting areas for the first-time migrants (i.e., yearlings). Lack of disturbance appears to influence selection of specific molting areas within the nesting range of moffitti, whereas movements of molters out of the Intermountain Region may be related to the evolution of this subspecies. Apparently. molters of both the PP and RMP that leave the Region go to the Northwest Territories of Canada. Although the taxonomic status of moffitti as related to the giant Canada goose (B. c. maxima) is unclear. these two subspecies are closely related. as evidenced by similar molt migrations to subarctic Canada. similar blood serum proteins. and only dinal differences in body size ,!!nd color. Mean annual survival rates for birds banded on nesting areas averaged 53 ? 2% (X ? SE) for immatures and 64 ? 1 % for adults. Mean annual survival rates of adults captured on molting areas averaged 70 ? 1 %. Sport hunting accounts for more than 86% of the mortality of fledged Rocky Mountain geese. and hunting may limit the population's growth. Because the number of waterfowl hunters in the Rocky Mountain West is increasing, the continued expansion or future maintenance of the RMP may require more restrictive hunting regulations. Other management recommendations include the refinement and standardization of spring and winter aerial surveys, and more accurate age and sex determinations when geese are banded and color-marked.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
The Rocky Mountain population of the western Canada goose: its distribution, habitats, and management
Series title:
Special Scientific Report -- Wildlife
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Publisher location:
Washington, DC
93 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.