Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 28, 2017 - 8:00 am

Fog, cold likely killed 400 snow geese in western Nunavut: biologist

"There are so many things that can kill geese, including cold weather, in the Arctic"

JANE GEORGE
This photo from Nunavut's environment department shows the carcasses of dead snow geese which lined the Long Point Beach outside Cambridge Bay on the weekend of Aug. 19 and Aug. 20.
This photo from Nunavut's environment department shows the carcasses of dead snow geese which lined the Long Point Beach outside Cambridge Bay on the weekend of Aug. 19 and Aug. 20.

Hundreds of dead snow geese lying along the sandy Long Point Beach, which stretches for kilometres to the west of Cambridge Bay, alarmed people in the western Nunavut town so much they quickly alerted the territorial and federal environment departments.

While Jim Leafloor, a Winnipeg-based goose expert with Environment and Climate Change Canada, didn’t see the dead snow geese for himself, he took a close look at photos taken of the bird-strewn beach.

The photos suggested to Leafloor that the snow geese died on or over the water, most likely of exposure and starvation.

“It’s not unusual to see hundreds of dead goslings every year if you’re near a big snow goose colony, but it did strike me as unusual that these geese are dead where they are dead,” Leafloor said, in an interview.

The snow geese, perhaps coming from colonies to the north or west, were forced there by winds and fog and landed on the water near Cambridge Bay, where they eventually died and were washed up on to the shore, he speculated.

The carcasses of snow geese shown in the photos looked like the “young of the year” to him.

“The birds are normally hardy, but if they’re the young of the year, then they’re birds that have just gained the capacity of flying so they’re not likely to be big sturdy adult birds,” Leafloor said.

And, on the water, these snow geese would be a long way from grass.

“That’s all they eat, and if it’s cold and foggy and windy, and they’re expending energy swimming, they don’t have a lot of reserves that could get them through several days of bad weather,” he said.

“There are so many things that can kill geese, including cold weather, in the Arctic.”

Leafloor said that if the remains of some of the snow geese arrive in good enough condition to be analysed, he can examine other possible theories such as avian cholera, poison or pollution.

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