The Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary is the largest protected area in Canada, established in 1961 to protect the largest variety of geese found in any North American nesting area. The Sanctuary is located south-west of Victoria Island, in Nunavut and encompasses the most extensive wetlands in the central Arctic, which provide essential habitat for over one percent of the global white geese population. Over two million white geese nest within the sanctuary. This includes over 90% of the world’s Ross’s goose population and 8% of the Canadian snow goose population.
The geese arrive in the sanctuary in late May to moult in the inland lakes and rivers; remaining until late August or early September when they leave the area. Because of its size the sanctuary has become an important area for the many other species of migratory birds and wildlife it supports. This includes over two million white geese, tundra swan, and many species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and land birds.
Several species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act either breed within or utilize the sanctuary, including the barren-ground caribou , peregrine falcon and red knot The entirety of the sanctuary is used by the barren-ground caribou as part of its traditional calving grounds. It also supports an estimated 6000 muskoxen and is believed to be the original stock for most of the present-day mainland muskoxen. These ungulate herds, and the vast open habitat, also support substantial populations of predators like wolves, grizzly bears, foxes and wolverines.
The most abundant marine animals in the area are the ringed seals that spend their time in the offshore waters, while the sanctuary’s numerous lakes, ponds and rivers are home to several species of fish. The most abundant of these is the arctic char.
Queen Maud Gulf was named by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1905 in honour of the Queen of Norway Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria of Wales.
The land within the Queen Maud Gulf (Ahiak) Migratory Bird Sanctuary has been, and continues to be, identified by Inuit as a place of cultural significance and the area is known to have numerous archaeological features.
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