Many people are surprised to hear that the Canadian goose was once close to extinction in this country. Over-hunting and land development in the early 20th century dramatically reduced the goose population in its native range. Beginning In the 1960’s, new conservation laws and habitat creation programs helped restore the population. Canadian geese, of course, are now plentiful throughout the United States, so much so that some people even consider them pests. Colorado is a favorite migratory location for Canadian geese.
In general, Canadian geese are identifiable by their black head and neck (with white patches on the sides of the face), and brownish-gray body. There are several subspecies of Canadian geese, the largest being the Giant Canada Goose, which has a wingspan of 6 feet and can weigh up to 20 pounds. Among North American waterfowl, only swans are larger. Geese tend to stay together in family groups during flight, parents flying in the rear of the young. Nests are made as early as mid-March. During nesting, makes become extremely aggressive and will zealously defend the nest against any intruders. The eggs hatch in 25-30 days and goslings are led to water within a day after hatching.
Threats posed by Canadian geese
Geese pose several threats to human healthy and property. Many people have had the unpleasant experience of encountering agitated geese who chase, nip and hiss at passers by. Goose bites are generally not serious, but they are painful and can leave bruises, especially on children. This aggression is usually witnessed during the nesting season as the male goose attempts to defend the nest. In urban areas, nests are sometimes located in very inconvenient spots (under a porch, by a sidewalk) that make human-goose conflicts inevitable.
Besides their unpleasant nipping and hissing, geese can also carry a variety of mites, which can be transferred to human beings. A prime example of this are chiggers, tiny mites that will feed on blood and cause an intense itching and rash that can last for weeks. Chiggers live in the grass near water sources and feed on water fowl; if you see a grassy area with lots of goose droppings (indicating recent goose activity), there is a good change that there are chiggers in the area as well. For this reason, you ought to avoid any direct contact with geese as well as grassy areas where geese have been active.
One of the most prevalent problems with Canadian geese is the way green spaces and beaches can be rendered unusable by excessive droppings. When a flock of geese lands on a beach or yard, they quickly litter the whole area up with droppings, making it unsuitable for human use. Many owners of water front property, and even municipalities, have spent thousands keeping the geese (and their droppings) away. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will occasionally close beaches down due to contamination from goose droppings.
Geese also do a considerable amount of economic damage economic due to excessive grazing, especially at golf courses. Canadian geese are grazers, chiefly vegetarian (though they will sometimes eat small fish or insects). They consume many types of grains, grasses, seeds, sedges and other aquatic vegetation, but they prefer non-aquatic vegetation and will graze in corn, wheat, or soybean fields, feeding in mornings and late afternoons. Often lawn grass is preferred by Canadian geese in urban environments. They choose to feed in areas that are relatively open so that they can see potential predators and other dangers, which makes golf courses particularly susceptible to goose damage.
Finally, there is the high incidence of bird-aircraft strikes involving Canadian geese. Between 1990 and 1998, there were an estimated 22,000 bird-aircraft collisions in the United States, which cost $400 million annually in aircraft repairs. The majority of these collisions involved Canadian geese. Each year there are approximately 2,500 bird-aircraft collisions in the United States; the most famous in recent history was US Airway Flight 1549 in 2009, which was disabled by a flock of Canadian geese shortly after takeoff from New York’s La Guardia airport. The goose-strike resulted in a complete loss of thrust from both engines and prompted the captain to land the plane in the Hudson River.
Dealing with Canadian geese
Colorado allows many ways of dealing with Canadian geese. In rural areas, hunting is allowed with applicable permits. Habitat modification, hazing methods, and noisemakers/pyrotechnics are all permissible.
Some people prefer visual-audio deterrents as a non-lethal alternative. Deterrents can be a cost-effective way to repel geese, if applied consistently as soon as geese arrive on your property. There are many commercial companies that sell these deterrents. Examples of audio deterrents are shell crackers, bird bangers, screamers, rockets, bird alarms, distress cries, monitor detector accessories and electronic noise systems. Visual deterrents include foggers, motion sensor devices and many forms of electronics. There are also physical barriers and oral-consumable deterrents available.
For more information, check out the CPW’s Canada goose management sheet, available online here.
Creature Control offers a variety of options to control geese humanely. If you are having goose problems, we suggest having a technician come out to inspect the affected area. Goose work needs to be very individualized because geography and specific environmental factors can vary drastically. There are a variety of ways to handle a goose problem, some far more cost effective than others. If you are having a problem with geese at your property or business, please contact us today!