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Greater Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens atlantica) underwent dramatic population growth at the end of the XXth century, and is today considered overabundant. In order to control this growth, wildlife management authorities have liberalized the hunting regulations for this species. The main management actions were a spring hunt in Canada in 1999 and an extended winter hunt (called “Conservation Order”) in the USA in 2009. Sport hunting can be very effective at limiting growth in species like the Greater Snow Goose, for which hunting mortality should be mostly additive to natural mortality.
The goal of my thesis is to understand how the addition of the Conservation Order in 2009 has impacted the survival of the Greater Snow Goose. In order to do this, we will use capture-recapture data from the long-term monitoring program on Bylot Island since 1990. Combining data from multiple sources in a multi-event model framework, I will attempt to determine how these management actions have impacted survival and whether hunting mortality is additive or compensatory to natural mortality in this population. I will also map the spatial and temporal variation in the distribution and composition of the harvest in the past 30 years, which will allow me to better interpret the effects of these management actions on survival since they were put in place 20 years ago.
We now have enough years of data to isolate the effect of these measures from the strong inter-annual variation typical of arctic-nesting species. This project will allow managers to re-evaluate the status of the greater snow goose, and assess whether the current hunting regulations are optimal. More generally, this project will bring insight on the effects of hunting on arctic-nesting waterfowl population dynamics.