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The Cause

There doesn't seem to be a single answer to explain the cause of this phenomenal snow goose population growth. Much evidence suggests changes in winter food availability is a primary factor.

Historically, snow geese migrated across extensive grasslands and wintered in coastal marshes where they fed on roots and tubers of aquatic plants. While much of this coastal marsh habitat has been destroyed through development, agriculture - rice farming in particular - has grown tremendously, and provides an abundant and highly nutritious food supply.

This food source has increased overwinter survival and possibly even productivity. On the northern prairies an abundance of waste corn, wheat and other grains sets the table for high survival of young-of-the-year geese on their first migration south, and provides a ready source of nutrition breeding geese need to acquire en route to the arctic each spring.

Other factors may also be involved. Changes in long-term weather patterns in the arctic have been correlated with increases in production. Humans have provided countless refuges and management areas where migratory birds can feed and rest all across the continent. This "gravy train' of easy living has likely helped to increase survival rates and productivity. At the same time, waterfowl hunter numbers have declined and fewer geese are harvested each year.

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