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B.2-1: Temporal Trends in Body Condition of Midcontinent Arctic Geese Wintering in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Presented by Ethan R. Massey - Email: emassey@ducks.org

Midcontinent winter populations of arctic nesting geese Anser sp. (hereafter, arctic geese), specifically greater white-fronted geese Anser albifrons frontalis, lesser snow geese Anser caerulescens caerulescens, and Ross’s geese Anser rossii have increased in abundance and shifted their winter distribution. Consequently, the number of geese wintering in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) has increased since the 1980’s. Stored endogenous nutrients are critically important to the life cycle of arctic geese as they are used to complete long-distance migrations, survive harsh winters, and supplement nutrients needed for reproduction. This study tracked temporal changes in body condition of arctic geese during the wintering period. Arctic geese were collected during October – February, 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 in eastern Arkansas. Proximate analysis was used to determine size of lipid and protein stores as an index of body condition. Protein stores remain constant over the winter for all species. Mean lipid stores were dynamic and the highest values occurred in November while the lowest occurred in February. White-fronted geese arrived earliest to the MAV and demonstrated a greater increase in endogenous lipid stores relative to snow and Ross’s geese during early winter when high-energy food resources were most abundant. Snow and Ross’s geese arrived later and did not appear to increase their lipid stores in the agricultural landscape of the Arkansas MAV. All three species experienced a decline in stored lipids as winter progressed; the decline may be driven by numerous factors such as resource depletion, a shift in diet, physiological factors, hunting pressure, and increased energetic demands. An improved understanding of the role that wintering grounds play on the nutrient dynamics of arctic geese may indicate the importance of stored nutrients to winter survival and also aid in the management of growing populations.
Session: Energetics & Habitat (Tuesday, August 27, 13:20 to 15:00)