Resident Goose Control
Don't feed the geese
Fed geese become too concentrated and more aggressive. In addition, most handouts do not provide the nutrients geese require. If nuisance geese are a problem in your community, your first step is to adopt a no-feeding ordinance.
Five ways to reduce goose damage
To effectively reduce goose damage, the community leader selected to manage geese, with the guidance of the wildlife biologist, needs to use as many methods as possible.
- Habitat modification
- Chemical sprays
- Lethal control
- Typically, Canada geese cannot fly from mid-June to early July when they molt their primary flight feathers. Because it is illegal to harm Canada geese, harassment may not be an option during the flightless period.
- Contact a Missouri Department of Conservation office near you before attempting lethal control of resident wild geese.
- Register with the United State Fish and Wildlife Service (see link below) before destroying eggs or nests.
Habitat modification involves physically altering property to make it less attractive to Canada geese. Modifications made to your property should focus on eliminating or reducing nesting sites and food sources, as well as the access between these items and your pond or lake.
Remove nesting tubs
When Canada goose populations were low in the 1960s, nesting tubs were a popular management tool used to augment available nesting sites, compensate for a lack of nesting materials and provide a nearly predator-free environment for the hen to incubate the clutch. Needless to say, Canada geese have made a phenomenal recovery and nesting tubs are no longer necessary. Every community that is serious about reducing Canada goose damage should remove all nesting tubs as soon as possible.
Eliminate artificial feeding
All artificial feeding should be stopped immediately. In public areas, signs should be posted that read, "Do Not Feed Waterfowl." People who feed the geese need to be educated about the problems they are creating.When fed by hand, geese become concentrated, making them more aggressive toward people because they are expecting to be fed.
Hand feeding also makes geese more susceptible to diseases, such as avian botulism and avian cholera. Moreover, artificial feeding, especially with bread, rarely provides the proper nutrients that geese require. Thus, artificially fed geese often develop wing deformities, which hamper their ability to fly. In situations where city officials are trying to disperse large concentrations, a no-feeding ordinance may need to be passed and enforced.
Remove domestic waterfowl
Domestic waterfowl, including mute swans, act as decoys for Canada geese when they are flying over an area. If you allow these birds to remain, they often attract geese into areas where they are not wanted.
Steepen banks of ponds and creeks
Canada geese prefer a gentle, grassy slope coming out of the water that enables them to easily walk into and out of the water to feed or rest. If access to the water is poor, the adult geese may leave that area to raise their young elsewhere.
To steepen the shoreline, build a vertical seawall 3 feet above the surface of the water or create a 63-degree angle from the water's edge. Allowing vegetation to grow tall along this slope will help protect it from erosion and keep the geese from walking up. Rip-rap, while ineffective on gentle slopes, is often effective on steeper ones.
Manage grass and plants
Canada geese prefer to eat grass, especially young succulent shoots, found in abundance on mowed, fertilized lawns. The techniques listed below can reduce this goose smorgasbord in your community.
Eliminate mowing: Geese like short, succulent grass to feed upon because taller grass isn't as palatable to them. Mowed lawns also provide loafing areas where predators can be seen from a distance. By eliminating mowing at least 20 feet from pond shorelines or in even larger tracks of land, geese will be encouraged to shy away from these areas and look for safer spots with better food sources.
Plant prairie grasses: Planting tall, lush native prairie grass stands along shorelines provides the same benefits as eliminating mowing because geese cannot see over the grass while they walk through it. Also prairie grass species are not as palatable to the geese as turf grass. Effectiveness is improved by widening the stand.
Note: Sometimes giant Canada geese adapt to plant barriers and walk through them with little concern.
Plant less palatable plants and grass: Above is a list of plant and grass species that geese generally prefer and do not prefer to eat. By planting the ones they do not prefer and eliminating the ones they do, you can make your property less inviting to Canada geese.
Allow water to freeze
Aerating ponds is one of the reasons Canada geese have become year round residents in this northern climate. Allowing a pond to freeze over will force the geese to seek alternative water sources and may encourage encourage them to migrate. Concentrations of geese will maintain open water even in below freezing temperatures. Harassment may be necessary to force the birds to leave long enough for the ice to form.
Using Plants as Management Tools
Replacing plants that geese like to eat with ones they do not typically bother may discourage them from remaining in an area.
Geese do not prefer:
Exclusion methods are used to keep Canada geese from entering a specific area. Some methods listed below are inexpensive and simple, while others are more complex and expensive.When used correctly, especially in conjunction with other management tools, exclusion can be effective.
Overhead grid systems
One of the most effective methods of exclusion is the installation of a grid system over the water surface. Grids work on a simple principle: Canada geese are large birds, requiring a long glide-slope to land, much like an airplane. A grid system above the water surface will be seen by the geese as a barrier between them and the water.
Grids work best on bodies of water less than 150 feet across, but can be used on larger bodies up to 300 feet across. Nearly any type of cord can be used to construct the grid, from cotton kite string to plastic-coated Kevlar cord. Anchor points for the grid lines can be trees, wooden stakes or "U" channel fence posts.
Grid system specifications are variable, but spacing the grid lines 20 feet apart and suspending them at least 3 feet above the water's surface should be sufficient to exclude geese, while allowing ducks, gulls or other smaller birds access to the water.
Modifications can be made if water levels change or if geese penetrate the system. For example, geese may land on the shore and walk into the water under the grid.
The solution would be to place a barrier around the water to keep them from entering under the grid. For example, place two strands of cord 6 inches and 12 inches above the ground running the length of the shore and attached to the anchor points. For a more permanent solution, plant a hedge row or install a fence.
Because geese can fly, fencing alone may not exclude them from an area. Fencing can successfully barricade geese from pedestrian traffic during the nesting season. They also are effective during the flightless period.
Be sure the fence is a physical barrier, as well as an opaque visual barrier, so the geese can't see the people passing by. This will allow the geese to incubate their eggs in peace while keeping people safe from aggressive birds.
Fencing also can be used next to a lake to keep geese from walking from the water to shore. These short fences, even though geese can still fly over them, often work well when combined with harassment techniques.
Fences to consider include conventional woven wire, snow, chain link, picket, single or dual strands of cord or wire, or chicken wire.
One popular fence that seems to be effective, especially for private yards, is a triple-strand electric fence. The wire should be strung 5, 10 and 15 inches above the ground. The amperage required to exclude Canada geese is minimal and will not harm them.
Note: To avoid accidentally shocking pedestrians, electric fences should be well marked with signs and not used in public-use areas.
Vegetation and rock
Canada geese typically prefer to use a route from a body of water that allows them a clear view of predators. By planting large, dense shrubs or placing large rocks (2 feet in diameter or more) along a shoreline, you may create a barrier that geese will be reluctant to penetrate.
Note: Sometimes giant Canada geese adapt to rocks and vegetation barriers. If so, fencing may need to be added.
Mylar tape is a visual barrier that can be used in conjunction with other exclusion methods. Mylar tape is 1/2 inch wide, red on one side and shiny on the other. To use as a fence, string one or two strands between two posts and twist the tape two or three times. When the wind blows, the tape rotates, creating a flash between the red and shiny sides. This unfamiliar flash acts as a visual barrier and makes the geese shy away from the area.
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. However, they sometimes get used to some harassment techniques when they learn they won't be harmed.
Harassment techniques usually will not stop damage once it has started. They are, however, useful in preventing damage before it begins. If Canada geese were raised on an area or have become accustomed to using it for feeding, they will be more difficult to move.
Using dogs to harass geese from an area has become one of the most popular and successful methods. While some nuisance animal businesses use highly trained border collies, just about any athletic, medium-large dog capable of obeying commands can be used. Control of the dog is vital because dogs used in this manner are legally considered an extension of your hand and must not be allowed to catch, injure or kill a Canada goose.
Typically, a handler and a dog enter an area occupied by unwanted geese. On command, the dog is allowed to chase after the geese. Geese will likely seek refuge from the dog in a nearby body of water. If this is the case, the dog can be allowed to enter the water. To make this method more effective, use a boat or pyrotechnics to further harass the geese. Harassment should continue and be repeated until the geese leave the area permanently.
Relatively low-power, long-wave length lasers (630-650 nanometers with red beams) can effectively disperse some problem bird species under low-light conditions. Canada geese have shown extreme avoidance of laser beams.
Although they should never be pointed directly at people, roads or aircraft, lasers are safe and effective species specific alternatives to pyrotechnics, shotguns and other traditional harassment tools. They can be expensive, costing $1,000 and up, and are only effective in low light from sunset through dawn.
Remember: Treat lasers like a long range firearm by considering the background; range of the beam, which is like the projectile; and the reflection, which is like a ricochet. Always consult the owner's manual for safety information before using.
Although not all geese react to pyrotechnics, most do. Pyrotechnics are specially designed Class C fireworks that are used to frighten wildlife. The types of pyrotechnics in this class include:
- Screamers and bangers — large bottle rocket-type devices fired from a 15-mm starter's pistol that whistle loudly or explode.
- Shellcrackers — firecrackers fired from a 12-gauge shotgun.
The distance a particular pyrotechnic device will travel varies from 50 to several hundred yards depending on manufacturer and type. Check with the manufacturer to be sure a particular device fits your needs.
Individuals using pyrotechnics should be trained in their use and should wear eye and ear protection. Be cautious when using them in populated areas.
Note: Check with local authorities for possible ordinances restricting the use of pyrotechnics before purchasing these devices.
Propane cannons are popular tools in use at hundreds of airports around the country. Many farmers also have used them with some success. They operate from the gas in a standard propane tank. On a timed basis, a small amount of propane is ignited, producing a loud report that can be heard more than a mile away.
The simplest models explode every 30 seconds to 30 minutes, based on the setting. More sophisticated models use computer chips to control the detonation more randomly, on a particular schedule or by remote control. Canada geese, like many other animals, have the ability to adapt quickly to the report of propane cannons and sometimes quit responding without additional aversive conditioning.
Their effectiveness can be greatly increased if the timing of the detonations and locations of the cannons are frequently changed and when they are supplemented with other harassment techniques.
Propane cannons may not be suitable for large communities because the devices are loud and may be more of a nuisance than the geese.
Chasing geese on foot or in a golf cart is labor intensive; but in conjunction with other harassment methods, it can be successful if people are persistent. The idea is to chase geese long enough to cause them to go elsewhere, where they can live without being chased.
Other techniques that can be used to harass Canada geese include:
- high pressure water sprayers
- air horns
- beating pots and pans together.
When coupled with techniques mentioned previously in this book-let, they encourage Canada geese to move from an area. The key is to be more persistent than the geese. As long as the geese are not physically harmed, these harassment techniques are legal.
A common request of people experiencing damage is for a chemical spray to repel the geese from an area. Although there are many home remedies, of which few are legal, over-the-counter products are few because of the strict registration requirements.
Chemical sprays registered for these specific applications, can be somewhat expensive and are, therefore, not suitable for all situations.To be registered, a product must be shown to have little or no adverse environmental impact while demonstrating it can do what the manufacturer claims. Even so, the use of these products, like any other control technique, do not guarantee success and should be used as part of an integrated management plan. Some of the products currently registered are listed below. See "Supply Sources" for addresses.
There are three new products using the active ingredient methyl anthranilate (artificial grape flavoring): ReJeX-It Migrate, GooseChase and Goose-B-Gone. These products help change the birds' behavior. When applied to grass where geese feed, methyl anthranilate makes the grass unpalatable. Geese may still frequent the treated area, but they will not feed there.
Methyl anthranilate will not wash off after a rain if allowed to dry first, but must be reapplied after mowing.
Flight Control, a relatively new product containing anthraquinone, repels geese in two ways. First, geese experience a harmless “gut reaction” after eating the grass. Secondly, the grass appears unnatural and uninviting because the anthraquinone brings out the ultraviolet spectrum when applied to turf. Combining the strange look of the grass with the intestinal reaction they experience, geese will look else where to loaf and feed.
Flight Control will not wash off after a rain, but needs to be reapplied after mowing. Adding a growth regulator can keep the grass from growing as rapidly. This product is considered to be environmentally safe and does not produce long-term physical effects on the birds that ingest it. Although results may vary, several studies have indicated this product to be very effective.
Currently there are three methods of legal, lethal control, all of which require permits; however, some may not be legal in your area.
Where feasible, hunting is an important tool for managing problems caused by Canada geese. Hunting helps to reduce the number of birds in an area, provides a b repellent effect for the geese not taken and reinforces the use of non-lethal techniques, such as pyrotechnics. In Missouri, early goose hunting opportunities are designed to harvest local giant Canada geese before the migrants arrive.
Many areas with resident Canada geese prohibit the use of firearms. Check federal, state and local regulations before hunting.
Nest and Egg Destruction
Egg addling or oiling prevents the embryo from developing. This popular damage abatement method slows the rapid growth of local goose populations and eliminates the aggression of adult geese protecting their young.
A pair of Canada geese can increase to more than 50 birds in as little as five years. With sufficient sustained effort, you can reduce the number of geese produced on your property.
Capture and Euthanization
In 2001, MDC began issuing permits with approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Canada geese from sites that have made substantial control efforts. In some instances, localized populations may be captured during the molting season and processed for human consumption through charitable organizations. This step may be taken only when other techniques have not been successful.
Methods that aren't recommended
The methods listed below are often asked about, but are not recommended.
Plastic Scare Devices
Plastic swans, alligators, owls, snakes and dead goose decoys, as a rule, have not proven to be effective in repelling Canada geese. There have been some reports of dead goose decoys floating in small ponds keeping migrant geese at bay. But in general, the effectiveness of these devices is short-lived, and they are not recommended.
Capture and Relocation
Capture and relocation of geese that cause a particular conflict is commonly requested. This is not a viable solution for adult geese because the birds imprint on the area where they learn to fly and most will return to the capture site or a similar setting.
Since giant Canada geese already occupy virtually all suitable habitat, there is limited opportunity to relocate juvenile geese without creating similar problems at release sites.
Relocation is effective for young juveniles because they imprint on the release area where they learn to fly rather than returning to the area where they were captured.
There are no toxicants registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for controlling Canada geese in the United States.
Some communities have attempted to use swans to harass geese. The premise is that these aggressive birds will defend their territory, especially during the breeding season, and will exclude other waterfowl from the area.
Because native swans are difficult to acquire, non-native mute swans are commonly used instead. These birds are much more tolerant of other waterfowl and may only defend the immediate area around their nests. It is not uncommon to find situations where mute swans and Canada geese peacefully share a site, adding to any fecal concerns that may already exist.
Mute swans can even attract Canada geese to bodies of water and also may negatively impact other native wildlife and plant species. Sometimes the swans are even more aggressive than the geese toward people. Use of mute swans can compound a difficult situation and, therefore, is not recommended.