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Washington State Status Report for the Aleutian Canada Goose (2005)
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Washington State Status Report for the Aleutian Canada Goose (2005)

Category: Threatened and Endangered Species - Status Reports

Date Published: November 2005

Number of Pages: 33

Author(s): Donald Kraege


The Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California population of Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia) was first added to the U.S. Department of Interior’s list of endangered species in 1967. The primary cause of the population decline was attributed to predation by introduced arctic (Alopex lagopus) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Aleutian geese were eliminated on many islands in the Aleutian chain after arctic and red foxes were introduced. Control programs started in the 1950s have been successful in significantly reducing and eliminating foxes from several key islands.

The Aleutian Canada goose was formerly one of 11 recognized subspecies of Canada goose. This subspecies was recently assigned to a new species known as the cackling goose (B. hutchinsii), which is separate from the Canada goose (American Ornithologists’ Union 2004). It is the only known subspecies whose range once included both the North American and the Asian continents. Aleutian Canada geese can be distinguished from most other Canada geese by their small size and a complete ring of white feathers at the base of the neck in birds older than 8 months. They migrate from their breeding grounds in the Aleutian Islands in September, stopping along coastal areas of Washington and Oregon en route to their wintering grounds in California and southwest Oregon. Hunting of Aleutian Canada geese is prohibited in Washington. Washington contains migratory, not wintering, habitat. Principal migratory habitat in Washington is located in the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and surrounding fields and farms.

In 1991, the species was downlisted by the USFWS from endangered to threatened. The 1991 revised federal recovery plan for the goose outlined 3 major delisting criteria: 1) maintain a wild population of at least 7,500 animals; 2) re-establish self-sustaining populations of geese on three former breeding areas, and 3) maintain adequate migration and winter habitat. The subspecies exceeded 28,000 birds and was proposed for removal from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife in August 1999 (USFWS 1999). The population was delisted in March 2001 (USFWS 2001, Appendix A). Aleutian geese have continued to increase, and currently number over 70,000 as indicated by surveys during the winter of 2003-2004 (Pacific Flyway Council 2005).

In response to its federal endangered status, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) listed the Aleutian Canada goose as a state endangered species in 1980. The federal action downlisting the goose from endangered to threatened in 1991 resulted in a similar downlisting of the population by WDFW in 1997. However, the federal action delisting the subspecies in 2001 has not yet resulted in state delisting. No significant circumstances exist specific to Washington State to deviate from following the federal lead in delisting. It is recommended that the Aleutian Canada goose be removed from the list of endangered and threatened species in Washington.

Suggested Citation:
Kraege, D. 2005. Washington State status report for the Aleutian Canada goose. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 26 + iii pp.