Effects of Saline Drinking Water on Early Gosling Development

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Journal of Wildlife Management



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Relatively high levels of saline drinking water may adversely affect the growth, development, and survival of young waterfowl. Saline drinking water was suspect in the low survival rate of Canada goose (Branta canadensis) goslings at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge (FSNWR) in western Utah. Hence, we investigated the effects of saline drinking water on the survival and growth of captive, wild-strain goslings from day 1-28 following hatch. We compared survival and growth (as measured by body mass, wing length, and culmen length) between a control group on tap water with a mean specific conductivity of 650 μS/cm, and 2 saline water treatments: (1) intermediate level (12,000 μS/cm), and (2) high level (18,000 μS/cm). Gosling mortality occurred only in the 18,000 μS/cm treatment group (33%; n = 9). Slopes of regressions of mean body mass, wing length, and culmen length on age were different from each other (P < 0.05), except for culmen length for the intermediate and high treatment levels. We predict that free-ranging wild goslings will experience mortality at even lower salinity levels than captive goslings because of the combined effects of depressed growth and environmental stresses, including hot desert temperatures and variable food quality over summer.