By using the polymerase chain reaction to amplify and sequence 178 bp of a rapidly evolving region of the mtDNA genome (segment I of the control region) from 81 individuals, approximately 11% of the variation present in the lesser snow goose Chen caerulescens caerulescens L. mitochondrial genome was surveyed. The 26 types of mtDNA detected formed two distinct mitochondrial clades that differ by an average of 6.7% and are distributed across the species range. Restriction analysis of amplified fragments was then used to assign the mtDNA of an additional 29 individuals to either of these clades. Within one major clade, sequence among mtDNAs was concordant with geographic location. Within the other major clade the degree of sequence divergence among haplotypes was lower and no consistent geographic structuring was evident. The two major clades presumably result from vicariant separation of lesser snow geese during the Pleistocene.