At Home in the City

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

When the Conservation Department launched a program more than 30 years ago to restore the nearly extinct giant Canada geese, they expected them to reappear in their original habitat-marshes and rural lakes.But geese have their own ideas and, as their numbers increased in the state, more and more of these migratory birds stopped and stayed at city lakes and parks, golf courses and lawn-rich subdivisions.

"Geese do better today in urban areas than they do in the wild," says Dave Graber, a Conservation Department wildlife biologist who studies geese. "An urban setting provides all the things geese need-safety, no hunting or little of it, lots of ponds and manicured lawns."

About 75 percent of the urban population enjoy having such majestic birds so close to home, but those who live in the middle of prime goose habitat sometimes have a different view.

For instance, a couple from a St. Louis suburb at first enjoyed watching a pair of geese swim in a nearby retaining pond in their subdivision. Then the geese chose a large flower pot on the couple's deck as a nesting spot.

"After the four eggs were laid, we couldn't go on the deck or in the back yard," the homeowner said. He and his wife couldn't open the curtains to their deck without the gander hissing at them through the glass. Because it is illegal to disturb the federally protected giant Canada geese when they are nesting, the couple had to wait until the geese moved back to the pond with their new goslings before they could use the deck.

The next year, armed with federal guidelines on how to deal with nuisance geese, the couple removed the pot and hung plastic streamers off the deck to scare the geese. At first this tactic seemed to work. The feathered pair ignored the deck but, instead, built their nest in the yard by the central air conditioning unit. This forced the couple to exit their house through the garage in the safety of their car until the goslings hatched about a month later.

If the couple attempted to venture into their yard, the hissing gander flew at them. "We had to have something in our hands to throw to get them to leave us alone if we went out of the house," the distraught homeowner said. "Two liter plastic bottles worked the best."

Before long the yard was littered with the empty bottles. The couple had

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