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Comparative survival and recovery of Ross's and lesser snow geese from Canada's central arctic



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum: Comparative survival and recovery of Ross's and lesser snow geese from Canada's central arctic Volume 76, Issue 8, 1731, Article first published online: 23 October 2012

  • Associate Editor: Bret Collier


Large increases in several populations of North American arctic geese have resulted in ecosystem-level effects from associated herbivory. Consequently, some breeding populations have shown density dependence in recruitment through declines in food availability. Differences in population trajectories of lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens; hereafter snow geese) and Ross's geese (C. rossii) breeding in mixed-species colonies south of Queen Maud Gulf (QMG), in Canada's central arctic, suggest that density dependence may be limiting snow goose populations. Specifically, long-term declines in age ratios (immature:adult) of harvested snow geese may have resulted from declines in juvenile survival. Thus, we focused on juvenile (first-year) survival of snow and Ross's geese in relation to timing of reproduction (annual mean nest initiation date) and late summer weather. We banded Ross's and snow geese from 1991 to 2008 in the QMG Migratory Bird Sanctuary. We used age-structured mark-recapture models to estimate annual survival rates for adults and juveniles from recoveries of dead birds. Consistent with life history differences, juvenile snow geese survived at rates higher than juvenile Ross's geese. Juvenile survival of both species also was lower in late seasons, but was unrelated to arctic weather measured during a 17-day period after banding. We found no evidence of density dependence (i.e., a decline in juvenile survival over time) in either species. We also found no interspecific differences in age-specific hunting vulnerability, though juveniles were more vulnerable than adults in both species, as expected. Thus, interspecific differences in survival were unrelated to harvest. Lower survival of juvenile Ross's geese may result from natural migration mortality related to smaller body size (e.g., greater susceptibility to inclement weather or predation) compared to juvenile snow geese. Despite lower first-year survival, recruitment by Ross's geese may still be greater than that by snow geese because of earlier sexual maturity, greater breeding propensity, and higher nest success by Ross's geese. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.