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Aleutian Canada Goose
by Bruce Woods
Photo Credit: Dave Menke, USFWS
The Aleutian Canada (cackling) goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia) was, ironically, a victim of the fur industry. In the mid-1700s, Russian fur traders first introduced nonindigenous foxes onto islands in the Aleutian chain. All of these islands were within the sole breeding range of the Aleutian cackling goose. Unfortunately, the birds were particularly vulnerable to predation.
The impact of introduced predators to the goose population was so great that not a single bird was observed between 1938 and 1962. The Aleutian Canada “cackling” goose was thought to be extinct.
But in 1962, Bob Jones with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge forced his dory through the surf and rocks to land on remote Buldir Island. It was here that he found his Aleutian cackling geese. At the time, he estimated that this remnant flock, perhaps the world’s entire population of the geese, numbered no more than 300 birds. In 1967, the rediscovered goose was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Protection Act of 1966, the precursor to the Endangered Species Act.
In the 1970s, Service biologists began moving birds from Buldir to other islands from which foxes had been eliminated. Protection of the birds on their California and Oregon wintering grounds (including hunting closures, the establishment of California’s San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge in 1987, and partnerships with private landowners in the Pacific Northwest, who managed habitat on their own lands for the benefit of the geese) greatly aided the species’ comeback.
The Aleutian Canada “cackling” goose benefitted from some critical activities on its road to recovery: 1) removing non-native foxes from potential nesting islands in Alaska; 2) acquiring, protecting and managing important wintering and migration habitat 3) moving wild, molting family groups of geese from Buldir Island, where most of the species remnant population was discovered, to other fox-free islands in the Aleutian Islands; and 4) protecting geese through Canada goose hunting closures in wintering and migration areas, particularly in California and Oregon.
By 2001, with a population of 37,000, the goose was declared recovered and removed from the national list of endangered and threatened species.
Bruce Woods, the Chief of Media Relations for the Service’s Alaska Region, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-786-3695.
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