2014 Ungava Peninsula Survey Complete

Written by Steve Earsom and Bill Harvey
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Photo of Bill Harvey.Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.The 2014 Ungava survey is complete. We roared to the finish line and on home with four full days of flying and (mostly) friendly weather. The data are still being tabulated for the western side of the peninsula, but the goose numbers for the eastern side are very similar to the data from 2012—a relatively good year. The habitat throughout the peninsula was good, with plenty of water. Larger lakes were still mostly locked in ice, but small wetlands were open.

One pattern observed by Bill and Jean over the years regards single geese versus pairs. Single geese are usually males protecting a territory while the female incubates the nest. A pair may or may not be nesting. One single goose counted for every pair seems to indicate a normal year. If the number of singles is only, say, 40% of the number of pairs, we would expect a year with low productivity. The 20-year dataset shows a range from the high 30s to low 60s. The preliminary numbers indicate that we are near 60%, suggesting above average productivity.

As a closing thought, we look to the past. The Ungava survey was undertaken in the early 1990s after a combination of poor nesting conditions (late spring thaws) and overharvest led to the closure of goose hunting seasons throughout the Atlantic Flyway. From 1995 through 2000, hunters had to look elsewhere to fill their freezers—Canada goose populations had plummeted precipitously. Fortunately, the signs were recognized in time, and wildlife managers realized that a breeding ground survey provided information that was superior to the long-used midwinter surveys. The Ungava survey was born, and has been used since as a major tool for population management. We've learned a lot since then, and with a 20-year dataset, we expect to be able to tease out ever more about the interplay between climate, harvest, and Canada goose productivity in this barren northern landscape.