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Canada Geese Plentiful, Greater Whitefronts, Ross’s Geese on Upswing

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FROM GIANT CANADAS to diminutive cacklers, North American geese populations are strong. As a result, goose hunters across the United States and Canada should see a lot of birds this season.

According to the 2014 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service waterfowl population status report, nine goose populations increased from 2013, and during the past decade, seven have displayed significant positive trends. Combined with mostly favorable spring breeding conditions, the production potential for new birds winging south is enough to get any short-reed blower clucking.

Canada geese should be plentiful across their entire range. For Atlantic and Mississippi flyway hunters, resident populations have increased from 2013, and an average spring in Ontario and Hudson and James Bays should result in good production. Favorable conditions across much of the temperate zones will bode well for honker hunters from North Dakota to Texas. In the Pacific Flyway, Canada goose populations nesting in Alberta dropped slightly, but should rebound with plenty of goslings thanks to an early spring and ample water.

The ice went out two weeks ahead of schedule at Karrak Lake, a major goose production area in the Canadian arctic, so greater white-fronted geese and Ross’s geese had a sizable jumpstart to their nesting seasons. And spring was especially early and warm in Alaska, which bodes well for the many goose and swan species that breed there.

California hunters salivating for specklebellies will appreciate the estimated 9 percent increase of the Pacific whitefront fall population to 637,000, while Arkansas and Louisiana hunters can expect the fruits of above-average production for the midcontinent specklebelly population hanging heavy over blinds later in the season.

Biologists in Canada witnessed Ross’s geese goslings a week earlier than normal, signifying high nest success rates for the wart-beaked birds. An anticipated above-average flight means more of them mixed with a robust and growing number of lesser snow geese. The midcontinent population of snow geese, which accounts for the bulk of North America’s light geese, is estimated at 3.8 million and has increased by 7 percent annually in the past decade.

Hunters on either coast targeting brant should be optimistic: Pacific and Atlantic populations have increased from 2013. Although Atlantic brant production suffered from heavy fox predation in some areas, an early spring indicated good production potential for Pacific birds.

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