||Inuit knowledge on geese
TRADITIONAL USES AND CULTURAL IMPORTANCE
Inuit families who have lived in the area of Pond Inlet
have always considered goose meat and eggs as an alternate
food source, both historically and up to the present. But
the closer to the goose colony a person interviewed camped
and hunted while younger, the more she/he seemed to consider
goose meat and eggs as a delicacy.
Before the settlement (and the arrival of refrigeration), geese
were mostly consumed immediately after being harvested. However,
some families dried and cached goose meat for a later consumption.
Traditionally, goose parts were also transformed for domestic
uses. Wings were used as brooms, skin and feathers were sowed
into mattresses, down was used to fill garments, and feet could
be made into small bags. The trachea was even used by children
to make flutes. Nowadays, some households still use goose wings
as brooms or wall decorations and down is still being used to
Because the goose arrival is a definite sign that spring has
arrived and that the hardship of the winter season is over, geese
have always had an intrinsic cultural value for Inuit families,
associated to the feeling of hope that they brought along.
ECOLOGY OF GREATER SNOW GEESE
People interviewed during the Inuit knowledge project were asked
to comment on the timing when geese molt their feathers, as well
as on the location where they go for molting. Fourteen interviewees
commented. Of those, the comment provided by 12 was that non-nesting
geese molt earlier than nesting ones (the other two interviewees
did not comment on that specific topic).
When providing more specific information on the exact timing of
the molt, 6/14 informants mentioned that non-nesting geese start
their molt at the end of June, and 1/14 said they start to molt
in mid-July. Nine out of 14 interviewees more generally agreed
that non-nesting geese molt through the month of July. Two informants
interviewed in early August further commented that non-reproductive
geese were just completing their molt at the moment, while nesting
geese were in the midst of molting.
For nesting geese, 10/14 interviewees commented that they molt
when their goslings have hatched and have grown bigger. One informant
mentioned that they start in the middle of July. Another interviewed
in late July commented that nesting geese would molt later on,
while another informant, also interviewed in late July, mentioned
nesting geese were probably molting at that time.
Concerning molting locations for nesting and non-nesting geese,
4/14 interviewees indicated not knowing if non-nesting geese went
to a particular place to molt, but 4/14 commented that nesting
and non-nesting geese never molt together, while 1/14 admitted
not knowing if they stayed together. One informant (out of 14)
also mentioned that nesting and non-nesting geese both molt on
Bylot Island. Some elders and hunters (2/14) also mentioned that
nesting geese gather around ponds for molting and that non-nesting
geese molt in higher grounds than nesting ones (3/14), although
1/14 hunter have seen nesting geese molting in higher grounds
in a very specific location.
When asked if there has been any changes in the molting locations
used by geese since they were younger, the general comment was
that there has been no change (4/7 interviewee commented) or that
the informant did not know if there has been a change (3/7 commented).
Migration: Timing of Fall Migration, Routes and Stopovers
When asked about goose migration, 16/21 persons interviewed provided
comments. The majority of elders and hunters interviewed agreed
that in the fall, geese leave the area of Pond Inlet from the
end of August to the beginning of September (13/16), or as soon
as they regain their flying capacities after molting (3/16).
Fifteen out of 16 informants also commented that geese leave in
small groups, but 3/16 believed they may gather in larger groups
further south. Migrating routes have been noted on maps, which
are similar for the spring and fall migrations, following a north-south
axis from the south plain of Bylot Island to the Inlets of North
Baffin Island. Stopovers used by geese to rest and feed during
migration have also been noted.
Trends in Population Numbers and Distribution
When discussing the size of the overall goose population around
Pond Inlet, answers were not unanimous among elders and hunters
who provided comments (13). Four out of 13 mentioned that the
numbers didn’t change, 2/13 mentioned an overall increasing
trend, 2/13 mentioned a decline and 5/13 mentioned that they did
not know or could not evaluate such trends. Four out of 13 also
mentioned that the population varies from year to year. However,
a more unanimous comment was that geese are more scattered now
than they used to be in the past (12/15 commented) and that geese
are no longer concentrated on Bylot Island, but have rather colonised
other areas (3/15 commented). One elder mentioned not having observed
any changes in distribution.
When discussing the population on Bylot Island more specifically,
8/15 interviewees mentioned having observed a decline in goose
numbers in that area. To illustrate this, four stated that geese
used to be all around the island. Six out of 15 also mentioned
that geese were so numerous in the past that they look like snow
patches, something that is no longer observed on the island. Informants
also commented that geese seem to have moved westward (5/15) and
on higher grounds of the island (4/15). In various locations,
increasing and decreasing numbers have been noted.
According to some persons interviewed (3/10), changes have been
observed since biologists have started the goose surveys in the
region. This corresponds to the early 1980s. Two informants out
of 10 noticed changes since the 1990s, 2/10 in recent years, and
1/10 since the 1970s, when rifles and snowmobiles started to be
used more widely. Finally, 2/10 interviewees noticed a change
in goose abundance since their childhood (which occurred in the
1940s and the 1950s), the former mentioning an increase in abundance
while the latter noticed a decline.
Biologists doing their research (11/14) and their use of helicopters
(9/14) were the most often cited as the possible causes for those
changes. Increased hunting pressure (4/14) and the use of new
hunting equipments such as rifles and snowmobiles (6/14) were
also mentioned as potential causes, along with an increase in
aerial traffic around Pond Inlet (2/14) and a potential increase
in fox abundance since the collapse of the trapping economy (2/14).
When doing verification workshops to clarify information about
changes in goose abundance, the consensus was that overall, geese
may not be less, but are more dispersed than they used to be.