Snow cover and snow goose Anser caerulescens caerulescens distribution during spring migration

Wildlife Biology
By: , and 



Arctic geese often use spring migration stopover areas when feeding habitats are partially snow covered. Melting of snow during the stopover period causes spatial and temporal variability in distribution and abundance of feeding habitat. We recorded changes in snow cover and lesser snow goose Anser caerulescens caerulescens distribution on a spring migration stopover area in south-central Alaska during aerial surveys in 1993-1994. Our objectives were to determine whether geese selected among areas with different amounts of snow cover and to assess how temporal changes in snow cover affected goose distribution. We also measured temporal changes in chemical composition of forage species after snow melt. We divided an Arc/Info coverage of the approximately 210 km2 coastal stopover area into 2-km2 cells, and measured snow cover and snow goose use of cells. Cells that had 10-49.9% snow cover were selected by snow geese, whereas cells that lacked snow cover were avoided. In both years, snow cover diminished along the coast between mid-April and early May. Flock distribution changed as snow geese abandoned snow-free areas in favour of cells where snow patches were interspersed with bare ground. Snow-free areas may have been less attractive to geese because available forage had been quickly exploited as bare ground was exposed, and because soils became drier making extraction of underground forage more difficult. Fiber content of two forage species increased whereas non-structural carbohydrate concentrations of forage plants appeared to diminish after snow melt, but changes in nutrient concentrations likely occurred too slowly to account for abandonment of snow-free areas by snow geese.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Snow cover and snow goose Anser caerulescens caerulescens distribution during spring migration
Series title Wildlife Biology
Volume 7
Issue 2
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Nordic Council for Wildlife Research
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 65
Last page 76
Country United States
State Alaska
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