OUTDOORS FEATURE: Canda geese --- nice or nuisance?

Resident Canada geese have become nuisance birds in many areas. With diligent control and deterrent measures, conflicts with humans can be appreciably lessened. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

Resident Canada geese have become nuisance birds in many areas. With diligent control and deterrent measures, conflicts with humans can be appreciably lessened. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

The sight and sound of a flock of Canada geese often brings to mind a peaceful scene. We enjoy watching them tend their broods, forage on our ponds and lakes, or fly overhead. For some landowners, however, the Canada goose is more a nuisance than a pleasure.

During the early 1900s, the giant Canada goose (Branta canadensis maxima) was almost driven to extinction. Present-day population explosions are attributed to both the successful implementation of wildlife management program and the bird’s adaptability to a variety of conditions.

Canada geese have greatly benefited from man’s alterations to the landscape. Geese are now readily observed year round throughout Georgia in both rural and urban areas. Most human-goose conflicts are affiliated with urban settings like parks, golf courses and large fields.

The most common complaint about Canada geese comes from landowners and business owners who are frustrated with the bird’s droppings. When geese congregate in large numbers, the accumulation of their droppings can become very unpleasant and, in some instances, a health issue. Other impacts include damage to lawns and landscaped areas due to overgrazing and injuries due to attacks from geese defending their nests. Health concerns can arise when geese congregate in shallow water areas, which can potentially increase bacteria levels.

Canada geese can sometimes cause agricultural damage such as trampling or grazing of young crops. This type of damage reduces crop yields and can also cause erosion issues. Native wetland habitats and wetland restoration sites can also be damaged by goose grazing.

There is also the increased threat of bird-strike encounters with aircraft. This worrisome and significant issue can cause the loss of human life, damage to aircraft and many hours of down time to aircraft.

Several methods of controlling or preventing damage are available. The first step is to stop feeding the geese. Feeding leads to larger than normal congregations of the species and causes the birds to lose their fear of humans. Aggressive behavior and overpopulation can be the result.

Habitat modification can be quite effective in deterring geese from one’s property. Leaving a 13- to 15-foot-wide unmowed natural vegetative buffer around the shoreline can reduce use of the area by geese. A natural vegetative buffer is comprised of native grasses, forbs and shrubs. Make the buffer wide and tall enough to deter the geese. Added buffer benefits include bank stabilization, pollution reduction, and low maintenance once established. This type of area also provides wildlife habitat and corridors (great for wildlife watchers and wildlife photographers) and increases the diversity of the landscape.

Hunting, where permitted, is a very effective and cost-efficient tool for managing resident goose populations. Hunting affords the opportunity to engage in an outdoor recreational activity, helps in the control of a nuisance species, and provides the opportunity to harvest a valued food source.

Scare devices and sight stimuli are yet other methods used to control nuisance geese. Examples of scare devices are shell crackers, bird bangers, screamers, rockets, bird alarms, motion detector accessories, and electronic noise systems. These devices can be cost-efficient if used properly. To be effective, you must use the device as soon as you see geese on your property. Golf courses and property owners have used dogs to chase geese off their properties. This method has been shown to be quite effective, remembering, of course, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to keep the dog(s) contained to the property being managed. Bird scare balloons, Mylar scare tape and plastic flags are some visual stimulus options. These devices will work well at first, but become less effective with time as the birds get acclimated to them being in the same place on the property.

Barrier fencing can be constructed to exclude geese from your lawn during their molting season (June-July). For best results, place the fence around the perimeter of your property. Fences should be at least 30 inches high and can be made of a variety of material including plastic and wire.

Several companies sell goose repellants to deter geese. The active ingredient is a non-toxic grape extract. The extract irritates birds’ trigeminal nerves and mucous membranes, causing an unpleasant sensation and they tend to avoid the area being treated. This method can be expensive if applied to a large area and it is only effective for a short time, such as before a rain or mowing.

Canada geese are an important wildlife resource as they are valued by both hunters and non-hunters alike. Populations are on the rise mostly due to changes in the landscape by humans. With rising populations also comes an increase in goose-human conflicts. The techniques above provide some viable options to help landowners and property caretakers manage these nuisance issues.


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