The Canada Goose
The Canada Goose is a large goose species with a black head and neck, white cheeks, white under its chin, and a brown body. It is native to arctic and temperate regions of North America and traditionally migrated based upon the season from North to South. However, by the early 20th century, overhunting and loss of habitat had resulted in a serious decline in the numbers of this bird in its native range. As a result, a restoration program was implemented which disrupted the normal migration routine, resulting in large flocks of Canada geese that no longer migrate. These non-migratory geese which are referred to as “Resident” Canada Geese are extremely skilled at living in human-altered areas, and have established breeding colonies in urban and cultivated habitats, which provide food and few natural predators.
Resident geese, as their name implies, spend most of their lives in one area.
Urban resident geese are distinct from the migratory population that nests in northern Canada. Banding studies have shown that resident geese are not simply migrant geese that stopped flying north to breed. In fact, Canada geese have a strong tendency to return to where they were born and use the same nesting and feeding sites year after year. This makes it hard to eliminate geese once they become settled in a local area and making relocation of geese problematic.
Resident Canada geese have low exposure to hunting, lack of natural predators and an abundance of food. The result is that they live longer; 15-25 year old resident geese are common. They also tend to breed earlier in life and lay larger clutches of eggs and nest in a more hospitable environment than migrant geese.
Most resident geese begin breeding when they are 2-3 years old and they nest every year for the rest of their lives. They mate for life, but if one member dies, the other will mate again. Geese lay an average of 5 eggs per nest, and most will hatch and become free-flying birds in the fall. A female goose may produce more than 50 young over her lifetime. Egg laying and incubation generally extend through April, with the peak of hatching in late April or early May, depending on location in the United States. Male geese will aggressively defend the nesting site and may attack if approached. Non-breeding juvenile geese (under three years of age) often remain nearby in feeding flocks during the nesting season. After hatching, goose families may move considerable distances from nesting area to brood-rearing area, appearing suddenly “out of nowhere” at ponds bordered by lawns.
After nesting, geese undergo an annual feather molt, a 4-5 week flightless period when they shed and re-grow their outer wing feathers. Molting occurs between mid-June and late July, and the birds resume flight in August. During the molt, geese congregate on ponds or lakes that provide a safe place to rest, feed and escape danger. Severe problems often occur at this time of year because the geese concentrate on lawns next to water.
After the molt and through the fall, geese generally increase the distance of their feeding flights and are more likely to be found away from water. Large resident flocks, sometimes joined by migrant geese in October, may feed on athletic fields and other large lawns during the day, and return to larger lakes and ponds to roost at night. This continues until ice or snow eliminates feeding areas and forces birds to other water areas nearby or to the south, where they remain until milder weather returns.
Canada geese can cause damage to personal property. Because geese often forage in large groups, they quickly can inflict serious physical and economic damage to agricultural crops, residential lawns, golf courses, and ornamental plants and gardens, particularly in areas where these birds have sought shelter during the molting period. In residential areas, feeding damage to grass, clover, and cover crops can leave large bare spots that will be subject to erosion. They also trample the vegetation and compact the soil, creating a “hard pan” that prevents new growth of vegetation. As a result, this denuded landscape provides little viable habitat for other wildlife species.
Public health and safety risks are a growing concern with Canada geese. A large population of geese that frequents a lawn, a golf course, or an agricultural field can leave behind an unpleasant mess. Studies have shown that a well-fed, healthy adult Canada goose can produce up to 1.5 pounds of fecal matter per day. Where resident goose populations are sizeable (>100 birds), the continuous influx of nutrients contained in Canada goose feces can contribute to the eutrophication of small water bodies, especially those that have restricted circulation and flow-through, which in turn may stimulate algae and weed growth. Bacteria and particulate matter contained in goose feces, when present in sufficient quantity, may lead to the need for special treatment of drinking water drawn from surface ponds or reservoirs where geese congregate. Additionally, beaches and other public areas littered with accumulated goose feces have been closed due to the contamination or the threat of personal injury resulting from falls as people lose footing on the slippery material.
Geese have adapted well to the ponds and well manicured lawns of urban and suburban habitats, which has placed people and geese in proximity to one another. This is especially apparent during the spring when geese aggressively defend their nesting territories. Goose attacks on humans that have caused serious physical injury, such as broken bones and head injuries, and emotional distress have been well documented. Many of these injuries have occurred when the person tried to avoid an attack and tripped over an object (e.g., stairs, curbs, etc.). When fed by humans, geese tend to lose their natural fear of people. This lack of fear often leads to more violent attacks during the spring nesting season. In addition when geese lose their fear they will begin nesting closer to areas that people frequent such as buildings, flower beds, parking lots, picnic tables, etc. People who have had a negative experience are more likely to be afraid of geese upon their next encounter, and often fall victim to attacking geese every time they come into contact with geese. For example, each spring many people are repeatedly attacked by geese nesting next to the entryway of a building they must enter. Individuals who are not afraid of geese usually have trouble understanding how someone could possibly be afraid of a bird, but to the person who has been attacked and/or injured these threats are real.
Integrated Management Components
Addressing goose related issues is not a simple task. There is no “silver bullet,” no one technique or strategy that can be used everywhere. Complexities of urban/suburban goose issues and the current limitations of available techniques make quick-fix solutions unlikely. Resolving a problem requires an integrated management program. Short-term strategies can relieve immediate problems, and long-term approaches will maintain goose populations at or below target levels. Combining multiple techniques always improves results, and persistence is critical in goose management.
Dependent upon the specifics associated with a property, Wildlife Control Specialists, utilizes a combination of the following techniques for controlling goose populations.
Hazing and Scaring
Hazing and scaring can be a very effective goose control method when done in conjunction with other techniques.
The most proven harassing tool is the highly trained working dog. Canada geese seek areas where they can go about their daily activities with minimum disturbance. If someone or something bothers them enough, they usually will find another area where they will not be disturbed. Geese lose their fear of simple scare devices quickly. You may get some short-term relief but for the most part, these scare devices, when used alone, have little lasting effect. However, scare devices can be effective as an additional tool when used with our goose dogs.
Digital Audio Distress System
We also intend to use our high end digital audio wildlife system to play goose-specific distress calls. We prefer using this because it can be very effective at much lower volumes (and often undetectable / undistinguishable by people in the immediate area) than other audio hazing techniques like fireworks (bangers/screamers/whistle bombs/etc.) and propane cannons.
Our High Power Portable Green Lasers are a highly effective tool designed to be used between dusk and dawn – primarily to deny the targeted birds their desired roost. Forcing birds to a different overnight roost usually means that they go somewhere else to forage for food during the day.
Paint Ball Guns
Our experience with this system is that it is safe (paintball carrying distance is less than 40 yards), and with the ability of firing eight .68 caliber rounds per second and the noise it creates it can be a very effective goose management tool. The projectiles are clear and colorless.
When geese take to water to avoid harassment we do too.
In the early summer when the geese are molting and can’t fly, the adults can be herded into a holding pen. This is called a “round-up.” The pen (a moveable fence made of netting) is set on dry, flat land, usually about 20 yards from the water. The fencing we use is plastic and supported every 5–10 feet with poles. We then use canoes and small remote control model boats to herd swimming geese toward the capture area. Then we walk slowly behind the geese with outstretched arms, herding the birds into the pen. Once the geese are in the pen, the geese are moved into our trailer and taken to another location. Note: Requires client requesting and receiving applicable permits from US Fish & Wildlife Services.
Nest Location & Egg Addeling/Oiling*
As mentioned earlier, geese lay an average of 5 eggs per nest, and a female goose may produce more than 50 young over her lifetime. Critical to the success of any goose management program is the utilization of an Egg Addling/Oiling component that effectively eliminates the production of next generation resident geese. Locating all the nests is extremely important. Over time, on any property where geese have been harassed, they learn to hide their nests on islands, beneath shrubbery, in high grass or on rooftops. Our approach to locating nest not only includes visual inspections, but also the use of a body (temperature) seeking device. We use this device not only to locate nests, but also to locate geese after dark. Note: Requires client requesting and receiving applicable permits from US Fish & Wildlife Services.