Lesser Snow Goose
(Anser caerulescens caerulescens)


Picture of bird
© Chuck Kling
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Lesser Snow Goose nests in colonies ranging from a few hundred to over a million birds in coastal and inland areas of the Arctic. There are 3  populations of Lesser Snow Geese that nest in or migrate through Canada: the Mid-continent population, the Western Arctic population, and the Wrangel Island population. The Mid-continent population of Lesser Snow Goose has increased dramatically from just under 2 million in the 1970s to over 12 million adults in the last decade. This population was designated as overabundant in 1999, and has since then been subjected to special measures to increase harvest in an attempt to control the population size and growth. The Western Arctic population has also increased significantly, from approximately 300,000 in the 1970’s to over 1.2 million in 2016. In 2014, the Western Arctic population was also designated as overabundant and special conservation measures to control the population were implemented in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. In recent years, the harvest of Lesser Snow Geese has increased slightly compared to harvest levels in the 1970s, although it appears to have stabilized in the last decade despite the implementation of special conservation measures. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.

See also:

Snow Goose
Greater Snow Goose


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighNot Applicable
Mid-continent populationLarge IncreaseHighAbove Acceptable Level
Western Arctic populationLarge IncreaseHighAbove Acceptable Level
Wrangel Island populationData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada> 10,000,000 birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

Lesser Snow Goose populations have become so large since the 1970s that, in some areas, they are affecting the plant communities at staging areas and Arctic breeding grounds on which they and other species rely (Ankey 1996). These geese have the potential to alter Arctic habitats during spring and summer, cause crop depredation during fall and winter, and create potential dangers to other species and their habitats. Population increases are strongly believed to be tied to large-scale changes in land use, mainly involving the conversion of much of the North American landscape into agricultural crop land. Spillage from mechanized harvesting results in millions of bushels of waste grain lying on the ground, and geese are one group of birds that have greatly benefited from this superabundant food source. Harvest of Lesser Snow Goose increased following the implementation of special measures in 1999, but has recently stabilized (Alisauskas et al. 2011).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Arctic Plains and MountainsArctic Plains and Mountains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation
Boreal Taiga PlainsBoreal Taiga Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Management
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Management
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Management
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainTaiga Shield and Hudson Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Management
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainTaiga Shield and Hudson Plain, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Management