Emperor Goose

emperor goose
Emperor Geese breed and overwinter in parts of coastal Alaska. Alaska non-resident hunting is severely restricted to only 25 draw applications annually despite total sport hunting-related harvests falling drastically shy of their annual quota.

The Emperor Goose (Chen canagicus) is an attractive snow goose relative that’s been referred to in Alaska as the “beach goose.” Sexes look similar, and are characterized by the white crown extending down the back of the neck and displays a pitch-black bib down the front of the neck. The white plumage usually stained ruddy, orange, or yellow due to foraging for mussels, barnacles, and clams in waters that are rich in iron oxide during the breeding season. This goose is somewhat stocky, having a short, blunt, pink bill with yellow-orange legs and feet. The body shows blocky vermiculation with beautiful shades of gray, black, and brown. Juvenile Emperor Geese display similar body plumage to adults, but slightly darker plumage covering the entire body, with dull gray-blue bill.

Breeding and wintering grounds are fully western Alaska to northeastern Siberia. Their preferred habitat is near brackish waters and rocky shorelines where they nest on the ground. Breeding grounds are found on the western coast of Alaska (Bering Sea region) and a few individuals reside on the northeastern coast of Russia near the Chukotka Peninsula and the Anadyr lowlands. Emperor Geese mate for life, with each in the pair taking on separate responsibilities. It has been reported that while the female makes the nest, the male will stand guard and warn the female of any predators in the area.

The Emperor Goose does not migrate far to reach their wintering grounds on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Both Russia and Alaska populations have been observed in this area. For the first few years of life, young of this species will migrate, winter, and forage together. Family groups will be aggressive to other families if they forage too close but are otherwise tolerant to their species during this time, as well as Cackling, Snow, and Brant Geese. While they do eat animal matter, their preferred diet consists of grasses.

Emperor goose hunting during the fall-winter season has been opened since about 2018 to Alaska residents by registration permits and to only 25 nonresidents annually by drawing permit. The Emperor Goose bag limits is ONE annually per permit. Hunting was closed in 1986 due to drastic population declines. Three decades of meaningful conservation effort went into recovering emperor geese populations to acceptable thresholds for limited hunting. Still considered vulnerable to overharvest, annual harvest quota is 1000 annually. Total seasonal sport-related bag by has been well under 50% since reopening, and it is hoped that non-resident draw tags will increase so that all waterfowl hunters may enjoy hunting this species.