More Pacific brant now find Alaska the place to winter over


At least 30 percent of the Pacific brant population -- as many as 40,000 birds -- now winter in Alaska, said David Ward of the Alaska Science Center, lead author of a U.S. Geological Survey study of the species.

…Although records are sparse, Ward believes fewer than 3,000 brant wintered in the state before 1977. The new finding about more brant wintering in Alaska has raised concern that a severe cold snap could thin the already dwindling population of the birds, a subsistence food for some Western Alaska Natives.

…This time of year, brant from Alaska, Canada and Russia spend six to nine weeks on Izembek Lagoon on the Alaska Peninsula and adjacent areas near Cold Bay where they feed heavily on eelgrass. Those that migrate to Baja typically leave Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in huge flocks during late October or early November.

The brant population is estimated at 138,000 birds, said Dan Rosenberg, a biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The population typically fluctuates between 110,000 and 165,000 birds, and it has been in a slow decline for nearly 40 years, Ward said.