Snow Goose Fall Use Areas

snow goose map 512w

Dark green = high use area (5 or more years
Medium green = medium use area (3 to 4 years)
Light green = low use area (1 to 2 years)

Lesser snow geese use a 450-mile strip of the Alaskan and Canadian Beaufort Sea coastal plain to build fat reserves necessary for migration to wintering areas in California. The number of snow geese using the Alaskan coastal plain each fall varies from 12,000 to 300,000 birds. Geese arrive on the Alaskan coastal plain in late August, numbers of birds peak in early to mid September, and birds depart by late September.

This snow goose distribution and frequency of use map is based on data from aerial surveys flown in September from 1982 to 1993. During each survey a pilot flew a fixed-wing aircraft from the Katakturak River to the Canadian border, and for each snow goose flock seen, observers recorded the location and number of birds in the flock on a topographic map. The surveys were used to determine the number and distribution of snow geese using the Alaskan coastal plain. A map of the coastal plain was then overlain with a grid of 3-mile by 3-mile blocks, and the frequency of use of each block was classified as low use (snow geese observed in block 1 or 2 years), medium use (3-4 years), or high use (5 or more years). Over 80% of the high use blocks occur within the 1002 area.

The large area of coastal plain used by snow geese to build fat reserves does not indicate that their feeding habitat is unlimited. On the contrary, the size of the area, variability in food resources, and wide distribution of birds indicates that feeding habitat is widely distributed, patchy, and necessary as a whole to fall staging snow geese.


Some information about snow geese use of the Arctic Refuge:

Brackney, A. W. 1990. Distribution, abundance, and productivity of fall staging snow geese on the coastal plain of the Arctic NWR, 1989. Pages 11-13 in T. R. McCabe, editor. Annual Wildlife Inventories: 1002 Area - Arctic NWR Annual Progress Report 1989. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.

Hupp, J. W., and D. G. Robertson. 1998. Forage site selection by lesser snow geese during autumn staging on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Wildlife Monograph No. 138. 40 pp.