At Home in the City

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

to postpone repairs to their roof, couldn't get the air conditioner serviced and had to wait to use the built-in barbecue pit until the geese moved their family to the pond.

An isolated incident? Not really. Complaints from home and business owners about urban geese have been on the rise for the past five years, especially in spring. Once eggs are laid in March, the geese defend the same area that only a few days ago they were willing to share. Watching a hissing, 12-pound gander with a 6-foot wingspan run full force toward you is probably a bit too much nature viewing for even the most ardent outdoor enthusiasts.

Geese also hit homeowners in another place where it hurts-on their well fertilized, closely cut grass. Highly valued by geese and homeowners alike, grass is the favorite urban food of the giant Canada geese. They may pull it up, roots and all, leaving behind bare, packed soil. Reseeding a lawn can be expensive, but imagine the despair of a St. Louis park manager after a flock of geese dined á la carte on $36,000 worth of new plants.

City-dwelling geese create other problems on suburban lawns. A goose, while feeding, will defecate every seven minutes, which adds up to about 1/4 pound a day of slick green piles on the lawn. Multiply that by the number of geese in a yard, and you can see why some people who once tried to attract these birds to their property can change their minds.

Once geese find an area they like, it's hard to get them to leave. Because they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, giant Canada geese can't be killed without a hunting license or a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunting often is not an option in urban areas, and the special permits to destroy nuisance geese are difficult to obtain. To get one, you must prove that you have done everything possible to discourage geese from staying in the area. Some of the federally recommended methods of discouraging geese are listed below.

  • Don't feed geese, at least on purpose. Offering them bread, popcorn or other human foods will only entice them to your lawn and aren't good for the geese. These foods lack balanced nutrients, which goslings need to develop strong wings. Geese with deformed wings can't fly.
  • Federal guidelines allow people to harass nuisance geese,

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