Managing Urban Canada Geese
The annual life cycle for geese begins in late winter when adult
pairs return to nesting areas in late February or March, as soon
as waters open up. Egg laying and incubation generally extend
through April, with the peak of hatching in late April or early
May, depending on location in the state. Geese will aggressively
defend their nests, and may attack if approached. Non-breeding
geese often remain nearby in feeding flocks during the nesting
season. After hatching, goose families may move considerable
distances from nesting areas to brood-rearing areas, appearing
suddenly "out of nowhere" at ponds bordered by lawns.
After nesting, geese undergo an annual 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 at
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. Some geese without
young travel hundreds of miles to favored molting areas. These
local migrations account for the disappearance or arrival of
some local goose flocks in early June.
After the molt and through the fall, geese gradually 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 open water
areas nearby or to the south, where they remain until milder
weather returns and nesting areas open up.
"Resident" geese, as their name implies, spend most
of their lives in one area, although some travel hundreds of
miles to wintering areas. Resident geese are distinct from the
migratory populations that breed 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.
There are many ways to discourage Canada geese from settling
in your area. No single technique is universally effective and
socially acceptable. Persistent application of a combination
of methods is usually necessary and yields the best results.
Goose problems in suburban areas are especially difficult because
birds are not afraid of people and may become accustomed to scaring
techniques. Also, some techniques are not compatible with desired
uses of suburban properties. For example, loud noisemakers in
residential areas, putting grid wires over swimming areas, or
letting grass grow tall on athletic fields, are not practical
remedies in those situations. But don't rule out any technique
that might be feasible. Dogs under strict supervision can safely
be used in parks and schools, and controlled hunting has been
successfully used at some golf courses.
Initiate control measures as soon as you notice geese in your
area and be persistent. Once geese settle in a particular location,
they will be more tolerant of disturbances and be difficult to
disperse. No method works well with just a few attempts, and
a comprehensive, long-term strategy is usually needed. Control
measures work in various ways. Some reduce the biological capacity
of an area to support geese by reducing availability of food
or habitat. Other methods disperse geese to other sites where,
hopefully, they are of less concern. Some techniques reduce the
actual number of geese to a level that people can tolerate. Control
techniques described here include those that have the best chance
for success based on past experience.
Geese are grazing birds that prefer short, green grass or other
herbaceous vegetation for feeding. Well-manicured lawns and newly
seeded areas provide excellent habitat for these grazing birds.
Wherever possible, let grass or other vegetation grow to its
full height (10-14") around water bodies so that it is less
attractive to geese.
It is very difficult to eliminate
goose nesting habitat. Geese rarely nest in open lawns where
they feed. Typically, they build nests on the ground close to
water, hidden by vegetation. However, geese are very adaptable
and nest in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, flower
gardens, and rooftops. Islands and peninsulas are preferred nesting
sites, and often support many more nesting geese than mainland
shorelines. Avoid creating such features during landscaping of
ponds in problem areas. Local zoning regulations may be a way
to discourage habitat developments that favor geese.
Install Fencing during
the Molting Period
Fencing or other physical barriers can be effective where geese
tend to land on water and walk up onto adjacent lawns to feed
or rest. Fencing works best during the summer molt (mid-June
to mid-July), when geese are unable to fly and must walk between
feeding and resting areas. In these situations, fencing or other
physical barriers installed close to the water's edge are effective
ways to control goose movements. Fences must completely enclose
the site to be effective.
Goose control fences should be at least 30" tall (48-60"
to block aggressive birds) and solidly constructed. Welded wire
garden fencing (2" x 4" mesh) is durable and will last
years. Less expensive plastic or nylon netting is effective,
but will have to be replaced more often. Fences may be beautified
or hidden by planting shrubs close by. Snow fencing or erosion
control fabric may be used as a temporary barrier to molting
Use Visual Scaring Devices
Various materials may be used to create a visual image that geese
will avoid. One visual scaring technique is the placement of
the eagle Jackite in an area to be protected. It's a life sized
eagle made out of Tyvec. You tether it to a 20ft pole and it
flies and soars in the wind. Geese are normally reluctant to
linger beneath an object hovering over head. Especially if they
think it's a predator. Place it in a pond, lawn or athletic field
and geese will be afraid to land there. Another device is a metal
windmill that reflects uv light. (The ScareWindmill). To the
geese it looks light a flock of birds taking off in fright.
If the geese are a nuisance at night,
a strobe light (AwayWithGeese) can be very effective. It disrupts
their ability to sleep.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEC have approved
the use of several goose repellent on lawns . Geese will avoid
feeding on treated lawns because they dislike the taste. The
active ingredients include methyl anthranilate (MA) or organic
fish and beef products found in Bobbex-G goose repellent. These
materials are available at some garden supply centers and costs
about $125 per acre per application. Several applications per
year are usually necessary. Therefore, it is most practical and
cost-effective for only small areas of lawn.
Use Dogs to Chase Geese
Dogs trained to chase but not harm geese have been used effectively
to disperse geese from golf courses, parks, athletic fields and
corporate properties. Border collies or other breeds with herding
instincts tend to work best. The dogs must be closely supervised
during this activity. Except where permitted, compliance with
local leash laws or park regulations is still required. Initially,
chasing must be done several times per day for several weeks,
after which less frequent but regular patrols will be needed.
Geese will not become acclimated to the threat of being chased
This method is most practical where the dog and handler are on-site
at all times, or where daily service (as needed) is available
from private handlers. Another approach is to allow dogs to roam
freely in a fenced (above ground or "invisible" dog
fence) area that is not open to the public, but this may be less
effective. Dogs generally should not be used when geese are nesting
or unable to fly, such as during the molt or when goslings are
present. Also, dogs can not easily repel geese from large water
areas, but may be able to keep geese off shoreline lawns or beaches.
Although this technique has proven effective, it is often expensive
and labor intensive.
Specially designed high-intensity bright green lasers are very
effective for geese control at night (e.g. The Bird Phazer Laser).
These hand held lasers disrupt roosting geese on land and ponds
during the night without making noise like other devices. Lasers
works because half of most bird's vision is in the uv light frequency
range (which humans can't see). And geese feather reflect a lot
of uv light. When the laser beam hits their feather it creates
an "Explosion" of light. It scare them without hurting
them.It can be difficult to break the site fidelity of roosting
geese. Consequently, flocks may move back to favorite roosting
ponds once the hazing activity has stopped.
Control Goose Nesting
Geese usually return in spring (late March) to the area where
they hatched or where they nested previously. Over time, this
results in increasing numbers of geese in areas that once had
just a few birds. Local population growth may be controlled by
preventing geese from nesting successfully. Although it is difficult
to eliminate nesting habitat, harassment in early spring may
prevent geese from nesting on a particular site. However, they
may still nest nearby where they are not subject to harassment.
If nest prevention fails, treating the eggs to prevent hatching
is an option. This can be done by puncturing, shaking, freezing
or applying corn oil to all of the eggs in a nest. The female
goose will continue incubating the eggs until the nesting season
is over. If the nest is simply destroyed, or the eggs removed,
the female may re-nest and lay new eggs.
Egg treatment helps in several
ways. First, it directly reduces the number of geese that will
be present on a site later in the year. Second, geese without
young will be more easily repelled from a site after the nesting
season. Finally, if conducted on a large enough scale (throughout
a town), it can help slow the growth of a local goose population,
and over time lead to stable or declining numbers. Egg treatment
may be necessary for 5-10 years before effects on goose numbers
One fertility control chemical (nicarbizin; *OvoControlTM) has
been approved by US-EPA. This material requires repeated feeding
of nesting geese during the egg-laying period. Additional field
trials and applications are needed to determine the utility of
For almost every method that has been tried to alleviate problems
caused by geese, there has been success and failure. However,
some methods were not recommended in this document for various
reasons. These include: use of swans (real ones create other
problems; fake ones don't work); bird distress calls (effective
for some bird species, but not proven for geese); scarecrows
or dead goose decoys (ineffective for resident geese); use of
trained birds of prey to chase geese (labor-intensive, generally
not available); sterilization (very labor-intensive for surgery);
fountains or aerators in ponds (not effective, may even attract
geese); introduction of predators (already present where habitat
is suitable, but none take only geese); disease (impossible to
control and protect other animals); and use of poisons (illegal).
Cornell University wildlife management
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