Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version



2019 The Wildlife Society


The Journal of Wildlife Management 1–12; 2019; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21770


Evidence that decoy harvest techniques primarily remove individuals of poorer body condition is well established in short‐lived duck species; however, there is limited support for condition bias in longer‐lived waterfowl species, such as geese, where decoy harvest is considered primarily additive because of their high natural survival rates. We evaluated support for the harvest condition bias hypothesis of 2 long‐lived waterfowl species, the lesser snow goose (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) and Ross’s goose (Anser rossii). We used proximate analysis to quantify lipid and protein content of lesser snow and Ross’s geese collected during the Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO) in 2015 and 2016 during spring migration in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota, USA. In each state, LGCO participants collected birds using traditional decoy techniques and we collected birds from the general population using jumpshooting tactics. Total body lipid content in both lesser snow and Ross’s geese varied with age, region of harvest, and harvest type (decoy or jump‐shooting). On average, adult lesser snow and Ross’s geese harvested over decoys had 60 g and 41 g, respectively, fewer lipids than conspecifics collected using jumpshooting. We observed lower lipid reserves in decoy‐shot geese in all 4 states sampled despite general gains in lipid reserves as migration chronology progressed. Our data support that the harvest condition bias extends to longer‐lived waterfowl species and during a life‐history event (spring migration) in which harvest is not normally observed. In the case of overabundant light geese, the disproportionate harvest of poorerconditioned lesser snow and Ross’s geese may serve as an additional challenge against any realized effects of harvest to reduce the population, in addition to extremely low harvest rates.