A spring hunt was instituted in North America to reduce abundance of snow geese (Chen caerulescens) by increasing mortality of adults directly, yet disturbance from hunting activities can indirectly influence body condition and ultimately, reproductive success. We estimated effects of hunting disturbance by comparing body composition of snow geese and non-target species, greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) and northern pintails (Anas acuta) collected in portions of south-central Nebraska that were open (eastern Rainwater Basin, ERB) and closed (western Rainwater Basin, WRB; and central Platte River Valley, CPRV) to snow goose hunting during springs 1998 and 1999. Lipid content of 170 snow geese was 25% (57 g) less in areas open to hunting compared to areas closed during hunting season but similar in all areas after hunting was concluded in the ERB. Protein content of snow geese was 3% (14 g) less in the region open to hunting. Greater white-fronted geese had 24% (76 g; n = 129) less lipids in the hunted portion of the study area during hunting season, and this difference persisted after conclusion of hunting season. We found little difference in lipid or protein content of northern pintails in relation to spring hunting. Indirect effects of spring hunting may be considered a collateral benefit regarding efforts to reduce overabundant snow goose populations. Disrupted nutrient storage observed in greater white-fronted geese represents an unintended consequence of spring hunting that has potential to adversely affect reproduction for this and other species of waterbirds staging in the region.
Additional publication details
Spring snow goose hunting influences body composition of waterfowl staging in Nebraska