Making Peace With Canada Geese

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Photo by Jim Linwood

by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

What if the Canada goose were our unofficial state bird? I can picture the angry mob forming at the mere suggestion! But with widespread humane goose control methods, we could have peace in our time with these beautiful animals.

Anyone who has stared through their windshield at a Canada goose standing defiantly mid-lane as traffic backs up in both directions can appreciate the Jersey-ness of these birds. It takes a certain amount of bravado to glare at an oncoming car with webbed feet planted.

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They are also extremely loyal, they mate for life, and care for their eggs and young together. And their distinctive ‘V’ flying formation is designed to share the work of flying long distances.

But anyone who has stepped in a pile of prolific goose droppings may not be swayed by Canada geese’s finer qualities. In fact, their droppings are a sanitation and public health issue, and their loyalty can produce aggressive behavior when they’re defending their nests.

Did you know that here in New Jersey we have two types of Canada geese? Migratory and resident. They look almost identical, but they’re not treated alike under fish and wildlife laws. Migratory Canada geese are protected by international treaties because, believe it or not, the once plentiful migratory birds are much rarer today.

It’s the resident Canada geese – the ones that don’t migrate – that have grown to nuisance levels in New Jersey and throughout the lower 48 states. How can you tell a resident from a migrant? If they’re building nests here, they’re residents!

A range of control options can help limit the resident goose population, including those designed to decrease their reproduction rate.

Some of the most effective options are addling (shaking), oiling or replacing the goose eggs. If eggs are treated at the early stages of development, they will not develop or hatch. The drawback is that this method is labor intensive – nesting sites must be located and monitored so that humans can access the eggs when the parent geese are not present. But with persistence it can work.

In addition, there are several ways to reclaim the lawns, ball fields, parks and ponds that draw resident geese. At the core, these methods all have the same goal: making certain places unattractive to the geese so they will stay away. These methods include broadcasting audio that sounds like a goose in distress to warn others away, setting up dummies of natural predators like coyotes, altering the landscape with hedges and other barriers, surface applications of goose repellents, or bringing in trained goose dogs to chase them off. These “scare tactics” aren’t foolproof, but their systematic use can be effective.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves of these humane methods, but also offers other options like expanded hunting methods and opportunities.

There is plenty of information available online on how to keep resident Canada geese from becoming a nuisance in your town or on your property. The Humane Society of the United States offers tips on goose control at www.humanesociety.org/animals/geese/tips/solving_problems_canada_geese.html.

GeesePeace, an organization dedicated to training community leaders and volunteers in how to plan and implement humane goose control efforts, can be found at www.geesepeace.org.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, www.fws.org, contains a wealth of information about both resident and non-resident Canada geese and the laws that affect them.

And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.


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