Date of Award

12-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Jodice, Patrick

Committee Member

Baldwin , Robert

Committee Member

Gerard , Patrick

Committee Member

Stanton , John

Abstract

Information on local and flyway-scale space use is lacking for the cohort of migrant geese (Branta canadensis interior) that winter in and adjacent to the Santee National Wildlife Refuge in Summerton, South Carolina. I examined home range and habitat selection of Canada geese in this region. I deployed transmitters on 17 geese (9 VHF and 8 PTT) on wintering grounds at Santee NWR during the winter of 2009-2010. Estimates of fixed kernel home range size ranged from 214.2 to 263.6 ha for VHF-marked geese and 1190.2 to 1915.6 ha for PTT-marked geese. Home ranges of all birds were compact and mainly contained within the Bluff Unit of Santee NWR, although geese did make occasional forays to private agricultural fields within ca. 3 km of the refuge. Habitat selection analyses of VHF-marked geese showed that birds selected for corn, millet, and moist soil habitat during the winter of 2009-2010. Selection of habitat by geese varied by time of day, as well as throughout the wintering period.
Geese departed Santee NWR between 5 and 7 March 2010 and arrived on the Atlantic Population (AP) breeding grounds on the eastern shore of the Hudson Bay by either 24 May 2010 or 9 June 2010 via two migration routes. Six PTT-marked geese followed an eastern route, stopping in northeastern North Carolina and western New York, with three of those birds completing a spring migration to AP breeding grounds. Geese following the eastern route had a mean distance between stopover sites of 417.3±76.0 km, and a mean total migration distance of 2837.9±345.6 km. Two geese followed a more western route, stopping in northeastern Ohio after departing Santee NWR. Bird F11 had a mean distance between stopover sites of 402.0 km and a total migration distance of 4020.4 km, while bird F12 had a mean distance between stopover sites of 365.1 km and a total migration distance of 3650.5 km.
A better understanding of local wintering space use and habitat selection of geese will inform land management on refuge lands, and aid in the conservation and management of goose populations in South Carolina. Information on flyway-scale movements and migration stopovers used by geese is beneficial to the understanding of migratory habitats, and better informs the timing of sport harvest seasons of Atlantic flyway goose populations.

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